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Introduction by 
Dr. G.M. Mehkri Ph.D. 

The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 

3 1924 075 257 




Published by Mazhar Yusuf 
for and on behalf of 
Sindhi Kitab Char 

Printed at 

Mashhoor Offset Press, Karachi. 








Dr. G.M. Mehkri Ph.D. 



by Sayid Ghulam Mustafa Shah 



by Dr. G.M. Mehkri 


The Aboriginal Tribes of India and Pakistan 

The Bhils and the Kolhis 

Ancestry, History, Occupation 

& General Characteristics 


Family Festivals 


Religion and Outer Life 

Folk Thoughts 

Social Life 


Who is to be Blamed? 

Customs and Manners 

Cultural Identity 

Folk Lore and Folk Songs " 


I could never realize how difficult it is to write encomium about a 
wife one loved so intensely and who reciprocated in such a large meas- 
ure, her love and devotion. HAWA had all the great attributes of head 
and heart that a woman can be proud of and for a husband to admire. We 
had a great deal of exchange of views and debated, but still thought so 
much alike. Her intellectual capacity, administrative efficiency and 
literary excellence, I always admired. She helped me in selecting articles 
and quotations for Sind Quarterly exactly I would want. Our minds al- 
ways met whether we differed seriously or not. Our logomachy always 
ended in smiling or in laughter. Her asthma, which she contacted when 
she was in England, began to bother her for a long time, when suddenly 
it became cardiac; and within twelve hours of this attack she died and 
left me for good. 

She was not only a great teacher but also a consummate education- 
al administrator. She was a marvellous combination of strength and 
kindness. She had taught for nearly thirtyfive years of her life, and gave 
the best of her efforts and endeavours to the profession of teaching. The 
great endearment she earned in her college life among both her col- 
leagues and'her students, is a tribute to her. She is remembered with af- 
fection even today. 

This is a work which was sent to me after her death, by her dear 
friend and class-mate, Miss Venita Vanchoo from Allahabad. This is a 
thesis presented to the University for her Master's degree in anthropolo- 
gy after studying and observing the details of the life, habits and tradi- 
tions of the Kolhis and the Bhils among whom she lived — a brave 
thing to do for a muslim girl in 1942-43. One can only admire her 
simplicity and accuracy of writing. This is a real original work of 
research and scholarship published nearly nine years after her death. May 
her soul rest in peace. 

After a married life of twenty two years she has left a tremendous 
void in my life, and with indelible memories of happiness. Literally it 
was my good fortune to have married her. 



The untimely death of Prof. Mrs. H.B. Mustafa Shah has 
robbed us of the benefits of a lady anthropologist (already so 
very few in number) who. not content with the knowledge of 
anthropology gained from college text-books, had herself 
embarked on field research tn the subject eind has left behind 
a book on the Bhils and the Kolhls (aboriginal tribes of India) 
which would be a credit to any anthropologist of repute. 

Not many, even amongst the better educated amongst 
us, seem to care to know the Importance of anthropology. 

Somehow it is thought to be somewhat of a 'remote 
subject', dealing mostly with 'primitives* and 'aboriginals' far 
removed from 'our' 'modem' 'civilization' and 'culture*. 

That is not at all so. 
This Is the Age Of Science. 

This is the Age of Observation, of E^xperlment and of 

There is just no known limit to these three processes, now 
tremendously at work all the progressive world over, with 
breakneck speed, and In all branches of human interest and 

Anthropology Is one such branch. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines Anthropology as 'Whole 
science of man, human physiology and psychology; study of 
man as an animal". "An animal" true: but not a mere biped; the 
animal who builds whole artificial worlds from the Natural 
resources he finds around and, now, creates things not found 
in nature also. 

He is the most lasclnatlng of all 'animals*. The anthro- 
pologist falls a prey to this unending fascination. 

So he begins his unending study of Man as an Animal 


with the study of the humans who can be said to be living more 
near natural surroundings than those who live in far more 
complex artificlcil surroundings like towns and cities. 

He tries to study Man's origins, his mental work with his 
physical equipment, the origins of customs and manners and 
all other social continuities. 

So, in search of these origins, he studies the 'Primitives'. 

Primitives means 'PRIME' people, not Secondaries that 
the rest of us happen to be. So, the term 'Primitives' is not to 
be used as a condescending term; but as the acknowledgement 
that without the "primitives" we would not have been there at 
all. Our debt of gratitude to them can never be repayable. 

They are our ancestors in the most demonstrable sense 
of the term. It is they who have laid the foundations and. in 
many instances, the very superstructure of civilizations and 
culture; of language and thought and other Primary INVEN- 

Those whom we may. in our haughtiness and forgetful- 
ness. derisively call Primitives are the people who have been 
historically outstripped, mostly through Force and Fraud by 
such of us. from amongst them, who through historical acci- 
dents, coincedents, and clean breakthrough of creativity and 
social and militant insight, subdued the rest and have reduced 
them to political, social, cultural and economic helplessness 
and dispossession of their habitats and have left them utterly 
at our own pitiless mercy and heartless exploitation, not only 
of their bodies but. worse, eilso of their very minds and spirit. 

The present day Bhlls and Kolhls. to be found in many 
parts of this subcontinent, are amongst such a cowed-down, 
brow beaten and dispossessed people. 

Perhaps no Humanist in the world can study the fate of 
the Red Indians, the Negros, the Eskimos, the Australians, the 
Movarles and Bhlls and Kolhls without help-less compassion 
on seeing how "man eats man" in the name of civilization and 


Mrs. H.B. Mustafa Shah Is obviously one such Human- 
ist who embarked upon the study and field research In 
anthropology of the Bhlls and Kolhls, with a human heart. 

And what a work of Art itself is her study of these people! 
Not at all content with the usual prescribed format of students' 
field work for thesis requirements in the Universities, she has, 
as can be seen from the study of this book, gone deeper into the 
humanistic values 'of the purest ray serene* she found in her 
study of the culture of the Bhils and the Kolhis. 

Ponder on one of her statements: "In the eyes of the Bhll 
the speeiking of untruth is one of the most despicable of crimes. 
Whatever happens, the Bhil will always give a most correct 
description even when it is detrimental to himself. Even in case 
of homicide he has puzzled the courts of law and Justice. The 
uneducated Bhil always confesses without restraint and his 
strong urge to speak the truth is by no means diminished by 
the knowledge that punishment may be hard". 

When she points out that the uneducated Bhll speaks the 
truth Irrespective of consequences she shows us how great he 
is. She echoes the statement of Robert Bums that 'an honest 
man, though ever so poor, is king of man for all that'. 

And then see for yourself what happens to the 'civilised' 
Bhil: The slightly polished Bhll," she says, "behaves differ- 
ently. He uses his Insufficient knowledge in such a way that 
any commitment of his appears distorted in his favour; he 
hides and conceals the truth with the express aim of sparing 
himself from punishment". Then she points out that because 
of this corruption of the very soul of man that 'civilization' 
causes, the aboriginal concerned with the chastity of his soul 
"condemns any sort of education, ftmily believing that the 
ability to read and write undermines traditions and customs 
and it is not astonishing that he eyes with disfavour the 
Influence exercised by town". 

How many of us can say that,? 

And "The uneducated Bhll Is always fond of his wife" she 
says... 'To desert a wife, is, according to Bhll tradition, an 


unpardonable act". 

Call THEM uncivilised? 

Then Mrs. H. B. Mustafa Shah shows how. not content 
with having dispossessed the aboriginals of their lands jthe civ- 
ilised man from towns and cities, is relentlessly bent upon 
further exploiting them since ages on end. 

The "Bhagat" or the priest from the towns and cities 
extracts religious tributes. And the money lender enslaves 
these people without aity pity or mercy. "Despite the fact that 
the Bhlls are so jealous of their personal freedom, they never 
attempted to counteract the Bhagat's endeavour to render the 
Bhll slaves of his influence... The Bhagat is the intermedlaiy 
between the gods and the Bhils. and superstitious to the high- 
est degree, no Bhil dares to contradict". And yet, "No body has 
already been more attacked than the Bhagat",! his prestige, 
however, remains unshaken thanks to his own cleverness". 

The book is. thus, replete, not only with pure academic 
objectives and above all, verifiable findings and observations, 
but also with that humanistic insight that makes it eminently 
readable for the general public also. 

It is a spectrum of the life and living of the BhUs and the 
Kolhls. And what a social spectroscopic study of the Bhlls cind 
Kolhis life she has made, even as a student then! 

The nine chapters of her study contain within themselves 
most easily and most interestingly stated, and above all, most 
humanistically written aspects of the Bhlls and Kolhls life, be- 
ginning with 

a) Ancestory, history, occupation and general characterls- 
~ tics 

b) Death and burial customs 

c) Folk thoughts 

d) Cosmology 

e) Religion 

f) Social life 

g) Customs and manners 
h) Cultural identity 

1) Folk lore and folk songs 


Throughout this book one sees that the life of the Bhils 
and the Kolhls Is not at all Isolated, Insplte of the struggle for 
cultural identity. The more complex cultures around are 
relentlessly exerting their pressures. 

Mrs. Shah is not at all blind to such of the features In the 
life of the Bhils that have remained unhelpful to them. She is 
critical and awake. 

One of such, as she points out, is their excessive fondness 
for alcohol. Also, after all is said and done, at least In some 
respects she finds them to be less mature than, say, the Gonds 
and some other tribes in the subcontinent. 

Going "beyond the bounds of duty", as only a strict 
matter-of-fact anthropologist, and wielding the cudgel of hu- 
manism and ethics, Mrs. Shah has come to the defence of the 
politically, socially, culturally, economically bulldozed Bhils 
and Kolhis and also other tribes in no uncertain terms. 

Who else, at least from amongst us, but she can in their 
defence so forcefully plead with elegance and empathy, in these 
unforgettable words. 

'Aborigines and their primtive culture acquired, theinks 
to distorted reports of explorers, who usually culminate their 
investigations by releasing a flood of minimising and prejudi- 
cial literature on the subject, acquired the reputation of form- 
ing the elements of the lowest possible strata of human 
advance and this state of affairs became an ill-used criterion 
applied by mankind who. only too eagre to cover Its own 
shortcomings, loves to draw attention to those inhabitants of 
the earth less advanced (or should one; say less shrewd) than 

Contempt and the cherished manner of looking down on 
less fortunate fellow-creatures resulted consequently in harm- 
ful misunderstanding which could so far not be drowned by the 
voice of a very limited number of interested and understanding 
investigators. E^ven the school books are packed with wrong 
and entirely misleading descriptions of the life, modes of living 
and cultural manifestations of aborigines and it is hardly as- 
tonishing that this type of knowledge-once established in the 


receptive mind of a young brain tends to remain fixed. The mere 
mention of the word "Junglewallah" provokes a shudder, pro- 
jecting phantastlc scenes of naked tribesmen hunting In 
hostile virgin-forests, notions of squalor and filth, primitive life 
In caves and blood thirsty feasts on unspeakable repulsive 
kinds of food. 

The press, magazines and films further corrupt the 
minds of children and adults by presenting the aborigines In a 
manner irresponsible and positively prejudicial, exploiting by 
this means man's utterly regrettable Inclinations to see and to 
hear something about halr-ralslng habits of some Isolated and 
neglected tribe. The impression Is created that one should be 
very glad to belong to a more cultured circle, apart from a 
deliberately fostered tendency to keep aloof from those wretched 
creatures the sight of which is already enough to drive anybody 
to fits. Did not every one of us read thrilling stories of aborigi- 
nes who roast their slain opponents ? 

Certainly cannibalism did exist though It has long been 
proved that caimlballsm was based on a carnal lust and 
cruelty, but nobody felt prevented to believe that this kind of 
barbaric lack of consideration that contributed so much to the 
rather doubtful reputation of aborgines is nothing else than a 
ritualistic manifestation of a certain type of culture excellent In 
the eyes of the adherents, but not too pleasing in the eyes of the 
civilised world. 

Besides, the city-dweller whose whole outlook, on life is 
exclusively centred on appearances, make-ups, aping of supe- 
riors, fashions and super-smart chit-chat on world-reforms, 
brotherhood and mutual understanding etc. feels Instinctively 
repulsed when he is compelled to contact a stray-member of an 
aboriginal tribe. 

The Junglewallah Is usually the exponent of poverty and. 
shabbiness, his simple maimers do not make him eligible to 
membership of dandy clubs. In addition, the tribesman unwill- 
ingly contributes to the maintenance of wrong ideas as to 
himself. This shy and helpless behaviour, his embarrassment 
apparently stress that he merely belongs to the skum of 


This Impression Is Indeed quite wrong; some junglewal- 
lahs may be rascals, the majority, however, mcorporated Into 
the simple but pure culture of their tribes, though less civilised 
as they may be, positively represents a most valuable type of 

A culture sparkling with life, simplicity, honesty and 
void of hypocrisy. These assets alone are worthy of any effort. 
Present day's life has become so cramped Em affair, compli- 
cated In all Its details, dominated by greed, falsehood and 
hypocrisy, boredom and lack of sincerity that It is Imperative 
to question the usefulness of so wretched a force which our 
lives have happened to become through our own fault. 

Should we not listen to the song of aborigines peacefully 
relaxing In the shade of a mohur tree? 

A song so free from wordly haste, so rich in sound, 
saturated with a melodious narrative oi love, frank longing, 
fulfilment and happiness. 

This Is the language we should learn to understand and 
once understood, we will cease to be slaves of our own life and 
our self-created Institutions. 

Let alone the many other virtues of this book; If Mrs. 
Shah, as a student and teacher of anthropology over here had 
done nothing else than to have expressed her defence of the es- 
sential greatness and essential humanness of the maligned, 
scorned, exploited and culturally and splritueilly brow-beaten 
aborigines who had done others no known wrong, even then, 
she deserves a nitche In the temple of humanism. But she has 
done much more. She has tried to touch the strings of Justice 
and mercy In the lyre of our heart with the fingers of scientific 
mvestlgatlon of the problem of human beings, the Bhils and 

She Is no more with us. But she remains our Margret 

Dr. G.M. Mehkri 






Ancestry, History, Occupation, General Characteristics. 

The Bhils belong to the so-called aboriginals of India. This is 
practically all that isknown about their ancestry. There was a time 
when they were regarded as Dravidians, closely related to the 
Gonds. But this opinion has been discarded. The physiognomy and 
the nature ofthe Bhils and those of the Dravidians differ too much 
to allow us to place them in the same racial fold. The Bhils are more 
primitive, more original, simply children of nature. In this respect 
they differ considerably even from the least developed of the 
Dravidians, namely the Gonds, which are their neighbours. 

It is noteworthy that the Bhils'also, from a linguistic point of 
view, differ widely from the Dravidians, theit language being of 
Aryan origin. 

Another theory has been advanced, namely that the Bhils 
are a Munda people, that is to say, they are closely related to the 
so-called Kols and Santals in Bengal, Bihar and Assam. This 
theory is more probable. The one who has had an opportunity to see 
and associate with these people cannot fail to observe a certain 
similarity between them and the Bhils. Here is the same primitive 
nature, and partly at least, the same physiognomy. But this does 
not settle the question, however, we are not yet in a position to 
make a positive and definite statement in this respect. The lan- 
guage may or may not be a guiding star. If, however, due regard is 
paid to the language it will lead us in another direction. The Munda 
and the Bhil dialects have very little or no organic relations. Nor 
does history provide us with a solution of the problem. 

The question of the origin of the Bhils is thus still left 
unsettled. All that we can say is that they seem to belong to the 
aboriginals which do not seem to be so very closely related to the 
Dravidians. They are probably still older, pre-Dravidians. 

Many attempts have been made to discover from the name 
of the tribe, their original status and cultural conditions if not their 
racial origin at the time of the Aryan invasion of their country. 


Different theories have been advanced. Bhil is thus said to have 
been derived from the Dravidian wordTbilla', a bow. In that case the 
name would mean a bowman. This derivation is, however, not very 
hkely. It is true that the Bhils are skilful archers, and were more 
so in days gone by, but other Indian aborigines have not been 
inferior to them when it comes to this skill. Thus there is no reason 
why they should just be called bowmen above all others. Others 
have derived the word Bhil from the Sanskrit word "billa', mean- 
ing, hole, cave, etc. Should this derivation be right, the Bhil would 
originally have been a cave dweller. I think this conjecture, too, is 

A third theory is more plausible. According to this, the word 
Bhil is derived from the Sanskrit word 'abhira', a cowherd. Via 
Prakrit, bhilla, the word has arrived at its present form, bhil. One 
does not require much linguistic experience to realize the possibil- 
ity of a word undergoing changes in this way. In Hindi and other 
North Indian languages, a cowherd is still called ahir. In Cutch 
there lives a comparatively large group of ahirs, whose mother 
tongue is so closely related to the Bhili dialects that is Grierson's 
Linguistic survey they have been treated as one of them. And 
further: in Khandesh there is a Bhili dialect called Airani, which 
is the same as ahirani, i.e. the language of the ahirs or cowherds. 

At the stage of our present knowledge there are reasons to 
interpret the word Bhil as a cowherd. Thus the Bhils may be 
supposed to have been cowherds originally, i.e. at the time of the 
Aryan invasion. If this interpretation is right, the Bhils must have 
reached a fairly high standard of civilization at that time. 

In the annals of history the Bhils figure very rarely. It is, 
however, believed that they can be traced as far back as 2000 years 
ago, if not further. The great Alexandrinian geographer, Klauditos 
Ptlomaios, who flourished in the beginning and middle of the 
second century mentions an Indian people called Phyllitas. There 
is reason to believe that this refers to the Bhils, who then, more 
than now, had their abode on the west coast. 

In Mahabharata, the longest epic the world has ever seen 
and written about 200 B.C. the Bhils are referred to under the 
name of Pulinda as participants in the great war described in the 
epic. Valmiki's Ramayana which is believed to have been composed 
about 500 B.C. is also aquainted with the Bhils. They fought in 
Rama's army against Rawan, the despotic demon from lanka 
(Ceylon), And Rama the seventh avatar of vishnu, is said to have 
eaten berries from the hand of a Bhil woman, Sabari. If, as is 
generally supposed, Rama should have lived and reigned about 


1600 B.C., the Bhils must have been a peopleknpwn in India since 
the time of Moses' appearance in Egypt. Besides these two epics, 
other holy books of the Hindus, e.g. Panch Tantra mention the 

When we draw closer to modern times we find the Bhils 
mentioned more frequently on the pages of history. During the 
long wars waged by the Muhammedan kings and their rule over 
India the Bhils play a rather important role. AboutlOOO A.D. they 
were in possession of large tracts of Gujerath and Central India. By 
and by they were, however, expelled from their ancestral land both 
by the Muslims and the Rajputs and their land was occupied. But 
this did not take place without bloody fighting. And the Bhils were 
never completely subdued. In the unapproachable backwoods they 
continued to live an independent life. 

By the Moghul rulers they are praised as a diligent and 
lawabiding people. And previous to that time, in the eleventh 
century, their villages are held up as models, where industrious- 
ness and cleanliness are prevailing, law being administered, and 
discipline strictly applied. 

In mythology the Bhil woman is glorified as being plucky, 
pretty and chaste. Thus, for instance, when Pravati wanted to 
charm Mahadev in order to make him forgo his ascetic lif?, she 
adopted the shape of a bhildi (bhil woman). Most wonderful of all 
that tradition has to tell is that Valmiki, the great author of 
Ramayana, was a Bhil. This goes to prove that the Bhils, thousand 
of years ago, occupied a prominent place among the various 
peoples of India, and that their culture at that time had reached a 
high standard. 

From the Marathas, which entered the scene in the begin- 
ning of the 17th century and for a couple of centuries fought with 
the Moghuls and the British for the supremacy of areas inhabited 
by the Bhils, the latter ones did not get any praise. No mercy was 
.shown to them. No people seems to have been treated more 
severely by them. Even taken into account that the descriptions 
given by the English historians of the atrocities of the Marathas 
are considerably coloured, enough remains to prove that their 
treatment of the Bhils was unusually severe and cruel. If, for 
example, a man was captured in a riotous area and it was proved 
that he was Bhil, this was regarded as reason enough to fleece and 
hang him without trial or else his nose and ears were cut off and 
he was burnt to death iti a red-hot iron chair or on a heated cannon. 
Every year hundreds of Bhils were hurled down the high precipice 
of Antur to perish in the deep abyss. On one occasion three large 


groups of Bhils with a letter of safe conducthad assembled in three 
towns in Khandesh in order to receive pardon, as had been 
solemnly promised, for an uproarios attempt. They were however 
killed, beheaded, or shot; their women were mutilated or smoked 
to death, while their children were dashed against stones or rocks. 

If the Bhils had already started to degenerate socially, 
culturally, politically and intellectually, the pace was now acceler- 
ated. It was during these hard days that they underwent the last 
stage of their development which brought them to the point of 
degeneration, which they have occupied all since. 

When in 1818 the British took over the Bhil country, the 
Bhils, by the sad play of fate, had developed into the most cunny, 
skilful but suspicious and unmanageable guerilla fighters, high- 
way men, and freebooters. It took a long time, much patience and 
wisdom to paciiy the country and win the confidence of the Bhils. 
But at last this end was achieved. And during the last half of a 
century the Bhils have lived a very peaceful and quiet life. Only a 
few years ago they were however counted among the criminal 
tribes, who were registered with^the police and had to report at 
fixed intervals. This system is still in vogue in several districts, 
although it is rare in West Khandesh. 

Today the Bhil is as a rule a harmless being.If not provoked 
or unfairly treated, he will harm nobody. But much is not required 
to conjure up the old nature, innate during many generations. 
Then he may change into the most formidable revenger or the most 
cunning and merciless culprit. Several instances of that kind are 
encountered now and then. The leader of a gang of robbers 
operating in and around Bhilwada is more often than not a Bhil. 
And in Akrani, where there is a compact population of Bhils, and 
where the Swedish Alliance Mission has a station, Mandulwar, 
murders are so common that Mr. Rowland, a Welshman, who 
served in our Mission for some years, had reason to describe that 
area as the most criminal within the British Empire. Approxi- 
mately one in a thousand is murdered there every year. 

The average standard of the Bhils, socially as well as eco- 
nomically, is very low. The majority lives from hand to mouth. In 
the areas where they form a small minority of the population, they 
have been degraded into the servants or coolies of other people, 
living from day to day on what little they can earn, gathering fire- 
wood in the jungle which they carry on their heads to villages and 
towns where it is sold, and so on. 

In places where they form a majority and a friendly govern- 
ment rules, they are farmers. In most cases they cultivate their 


land in a poor way. But there are also honourable exceptions. Per- 
sonally I know Bhil farmers who are large landowners having 
hundreds of acres of land, which is being cultivated just as 
nationally as anybody else's in India. 

Besides farming, the Bhil occupies himself with cutting, 
rough-hewing and transport of timber. With other occupation or 
crafts he is rarely acquainted. In every Bhil section of farmers, 
though, there are one or two carpenters who produce what simple 
farming implements are required. The smithwork is generally 
done by artisans belonging to other tribes or castes. 

Hunting and fishing, especially the last-mentioned, are 
occupations that are cherished by the Bhils. As a result hereof the 
rivers in the Bhil country are almost devoid offish. Whole villages 
go a fishing to a man, not to say to a woman. Dams are built to shut 
in the fish. Then it is caught in hoop-nets, bucks, pots, and nets, or 
with the hands. Not even the smallest can get away. It is an ex- 
tremely picturesque and interesting thing to see the whole male 
and female population of a village wade through a river catching 

Hunting will soon belongto the pleasures and occupations of 
the past. Game is continually on the decrease. And the Bhil is not 
allowed to carry the arms he wants; not even a large bow with iron 
arrows, let alone swords or spears or daggers or lances, and guns 
or rifles. But it may happen that even a panther is laid down before 
the insistent attacks by a group of Bhils, armed with bamboos only. 
But it may also happen that one or more Bhils have to pay with 
their lives for a reckless chase on wild boar. Rabbits, antilopes, 
gazelles and even deer and blue- bulls may be killed with bamboo 
lathis afl;er having been tired out by a wild chase. During his 
hunting excursions the Bhil is possessed with a fury. 

Of one occupation the Bhil is aborn master, viz: the distilling 
of liquor. Here nobody can compete with him. And the women are 
just as skilled as the men. As the Government authorities both in 
British India as well as in the Native states have monopoly of 
producing liquor, the whole traffic has to be carried on secretly. 
And in this art too the Bhil is a master. Few persons, whatever 
people they belong to, have such a pronounced ingenious skill of 
completely concealing what they want to conceal as the Bhil in 
general enjoys. 

Speaking of occupations and crafts it should be mentioned 
that the Bhil builds his own house. Most Bhil dwellings are grass 
or straw huts. In jungles tracts, where bamboo is plentiful, the 
walls are made of split bamboos. The roof is thatched its straw. 


leaves, curry stalks or something of the kind. The walls are often 
made of bulrushes, maize stalks, etc. Nowadays Bhil dwellings are 
often found roofed with tiles, which, however, are not made by 
themselves. Of late quite a number of the farmer Bhils on the plain 
have erected for themselves big brick-houses with roofs of corru- 
gated iron. 

The Bhil is of a playful disposition, being jocular and of a 
comparatively lively imagination. He is in no way ungift«d. On the 
contrary, the Bhils are probably more gifted than most of the 
aborigines of India. Their gift for languages is marked. It is no 
uncommon thing to come across Bhils who speak three or four 
languages fluently. In the primary schools they do just as well, if 
not better, than the children of other people. When it comes to 
higher studies they do not do so well. 

Generally speaking they are children. They are therefore not 
to be depended upon. It is easy to extract promises from them. But 
if you expect these to be fulfilled you will often be deceived. Like 
children they forget what they have promised. Their manners are 
pleasant, courteous and obliging. Among the inhabitants of Khan- 
desh they are, in the opinion of many, the mostgentleman like. And 
so one easily learns to like them. To get into real touch with them 
is not easy, though. Their degration and ignorance are great. Only 
four men in a thousand are literate. Among the women hardly one 
in ten thousand. Drunkenness knows no restraint. Men, women 
and children learn from childhood to use intoxicating liquor. 

By Hindus, Mohammadans, and other confessors of indige- 
nous, religions, they are looked upon with contempt, oppressed 
and trampled down. But they are not regarded as untouchables. 
Even a Brahman may take water from the hands of a Bhil. Some 
of them claim to be Kshatriyas, i.e. the second of the Indian castes, 
the warrior caste. 

Going into debt is so common that it is practically impos- 
sible to come across a Bhil without debts. It almost seems as if 
contracting debts is looked upon as a necessity of life. When a 
Christian Bhil once approached me in order to borrow money 
from me, his strongest argument was that he had no debt 
before! The money-lenders therefore have a happy hunting 
ground among the Bhils. The lowest interest charged is 75%. 
Cases where the interest has amounted to 75% per month are 
not lacking. The most common rate seems to be 25% a month. 
More need not be said to explain the severity of the situation. 
But the worst part of the tale is not yet told, for according to 
Indian custom, debts are passed on from one generation to 


another, endlessly. The debt may thus become of 100 years 
standing and simply unpayable. The Bhil becomes the slave of 
the usurer, practically if not nominally. 

During the period of degradation the Bhil has degener- 
ated even physically. He is dwarfed in some way. Oppression 
has stamped his features. Under the surface, however, a 
glimpse may be seen of a noble strain, something that tells you 
of a noble inheritance, of a happier past. And in this something 
lies the hope of development into something better and higher, 
under the influence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ 

Tribal, divisions, dispersions, and numbers. 

The Bhils are not a homogeneous people. Far from that! 
Few people are so divided into clans, tribes and families as are 
the Bhils. The full number of these have never been known. 
Some fifty are, however, known. And these are scattered over 
a tremendous area. We find them fi-om the 18th to the 28th 
latitude and from the 72nd to the 77th longitude, approxi- 
mately the area of the size of Sweden. 

A glance at the map will show that the Bhils, politically 
are divided between the Native States of Central India and 
Rajputana, Baroda, and other Native States of Gujarat, Brit- 
ish Gujarat, Khandesh, Nasik, Ahmednagar, Poona and other 
districts of Maharashtra, and Hyderabad Deccan. Kachh and 
Thar Desert and border areas of Sind and Bahawalpur. In 
West Khandesh we find the densest and broadest Bhil block. 
Experience has also shown that the Bhils that are most gifted 
and capable of development are to be found here. For all 
practical purposes these are the Dehvali-speaking: They must 
however share this honour to some extent, with those who 
have Mowchi as their language, a dialect (;losely related to 

The most prominent tribes or families within these areas 
are Padvi, Vasava, Valvi, Pardan Naik, and Gavti. Originally 
these nameshave stood for professions: Padvi:- rulers, officials 
and officers; Vasava:- bailiffs and higher village officials; 
Valvi:- councillors; and Gavti:- cultivators. The only Bhil 
princes still in existence belong to the Dehvali group. The only 
Bhils, so outstanding as to have become Government officials 
also belong to the same category. Quite recently three of their 
number were appointed as honorary magistrates at their 
respective places. Other Bhil tribes in Khandesh are: Nojri, 
Nihali, Pavri, Naikulli, Kajli, Kotli, Bardi, Ajrani, Kokni, 
Kotri, Dubli, and others. 


These tribes often differ considerably as to intellectual 
gifts, disposition and character, social status, manners and 
customs and languages. The Pavri people do not even regard 
themselves as Bhils, boasting that they are Rajputs. It is 
possible that they have "royal" blood in their veins. Their 
posture and skin bespeak this. The Kokni people have been 
Hindunized and Marathaized to such an extent as to regard 
themselves too distinguished to be ranked among the Bhils. 
The Kators may not be pure Bhils. Their standard is lower 
than that of the Kandesh Bhils in general, and they form an 
inconsiderable minority in Khandesh. The Kotlis are on the 
whole are of a weaker character than the rest, they are also 
less industrious and therefore the poorest among the bigger 
tribes. They are of low morals. Hundred of their women are to 
be found as second or third wives or concubines with Moham- 
madans. From their ranks the army of prostitutes is being fed. 
Prostitution is otherwise an unknown institution among the 
Bhils. The Kotlis live around Nandurbar. The hill tribes i.e. 
Pavri, Nihali, Nojri, and some of the Valvi have the peculiari- 
ties of the hill people in a very marked way. 

The Dehvali people live in the western part of Nandur- 
bar Taluka (round Dhanora) and Taloda Taluka and in the 
Mewa States, which are ruled by Bhil princes. In Shahada we 
have the Bardi and Kajli people, which belong to the best type 
of Bhils. In Sindkheda there are Bardis and Airanis. In 
Shirpur and Dhulia we find Airanis. The latter ones have been 
highly enslaved by the people they live among, and more so by 

The total number of Bhils in West Khandesh, including 
theMewaStates, was accordingto the Census of 1921, 233,944. 
Since then they have without doubt increased. They number 
38% of the total population of the district. Their dispersion is 
very uneven. The percentage for the different Talukas is as 
follows: Dhulia city 3%, Dhulia Taluka 12%, Sindkheda 12%, 
Shirpur 12%, Shahada 37%, Nandurbar 44%, Taloda 76%, 
Sakri 36%, and Navapur 86%. 

Accordingto the Census 1921 the total population of the 
Bhils in India is 1,795,508. This figure is probably too low. In 
the linguistic Survey Report published in 1907, the Bhili 
speaking people were estimated at 2,689, 109. It maybe safe to 
assume that the Bhils number at least 2,000,000. That the 
returns differ is accounted for by the fact that some strongly 
Hindunized tribes deny their BhiloriHn. I n anv case one sixth 


of the Bhils live in Khandesh. 

Compared to other aborigines it will be found that the 
Bhils occupy the third place as far as numbers are concerned. 
.For the Gonds number 2,902,592 and the santals 2,265,282. In 
importance however they do not lagbehind these larger groups 
of aborigines. 

The Family Festivals 

ABhil who ishimselfa married man and afather relates 
as follows concerning an occasion of this kind: 

When symptoms appear that the days of the prospective 
mother are up the women of the neighbourhood are called in 
together with the midwife. The latter delivers her. When the 
child has been born, a hole is dug in one corner of the house for 
its bath. Close to this hole another one is dug where the 
placenta is thrown, whereafter the hole is filled with earth, 
which is packed. On the top of this cowdung is plastered. 

The child which uptil now has undergone only a meagre 
drycleaning with a rag or a piece of cloth , is now laid by the mid- 
wife on a piece of board which is placed over the first hole, 
where it is thoroughly washed together with its mother, who 
also has been placed on the board. Duties thus performed the 
mid-wife gets a few champas of grain from the house and 
leaves the house. 

The mother thenhas to do the bathingboth of herself and 
the child. This is done twice a day over the above-mentioned 
hole. Her food consists of water-gruel, which is served every 
three hours by a woman temporarily employed. After a lapse 
of five days the father of the child goes to the liquor shop from 
where he brings a few, generally six bottles of liquor. Arrived 
home he sends for the mid-wife again and the elder woman of 
the neighbourhood, who will be there very quickly. 

The first duty of the mid-wife will now be to perform 
"penchro punji" (the worship of the fifth day), to the honour of 
which deity this is done, remains her secret as a rule. 

The worship having been performed, she fills up with 
earth the hole over which the child and her mother have been 
bathed. After havingbeen packed it is plastered with cowdung, 
on which she draws a design of red lead and paint. Finally she 
sprinkles a little liquor on the top of the whole thing. Of the 
liquor the midwife takes a bottle with her home. What is left 
is divided between the women that have come and squatted 
down on the floor. They all help themselves Hberally to it. 

Naming the child 

The time has now come to give the child a name. The 
midwife gets up, takes a piece of cloth which she gives to two 
women to fold so as to malce a swing or cradle of it in the form 
of a hammock, in which the child is placed. The midwife stands 
in the middle swinging the hammock while singing. 

Should anyone try to scare thee, be not afraid! 

Should any one try to decieve thee, be not decieved! 

Then she stops the hammock, takes up the child and 
hands it to its mother. All the women now combine to give the 
child a name. 

The name given is so chosen as to refer to the day on 
which the child was bom or to some characteristic features of 
child. Thus for example, it may be called Navapuria to denote 
that it was born on a Saturday: Kalia, the black one, because 
of its complexion, or Raltia, the crying one, because it cried 
vehemently on entering this world and so on. Names of ani- 
mals, such as, dog and tiger, cat, rat, bullock are rather 
common; and so are goblin, fairy and others of that kind. An 
ugly name will protect the bearer against evil spirits. 

When this ceremony is over, the midwife is presented 
with two champas of grain, one bottle of liquor and one Rupee 
in cash for her services. Then she leaves the family. The other 
women who have squatted down also leave for their homes. 

After this ceremony, the confined woman, who, however, 
now is up and around, is considered unclean (napak, unholy) 
for another month and a quarter, i.e. 35 days. During this 
period no one may touch her, let alone, eat anything she has 
puther hand to or dine together with her. Her meals are served 
to her in a special comer. 

When the five weeks prescribed have elapsed, the whole 
family dines together again, all "eat from her hand", that is to 
say, what she has cooked and is now serving. In other words, 
she reoccupies her position as wife and mother. 


Marriage in the Bhil country is a very complicated affair. 
Firstly, like many primitive people, the Bhils are exogamous. 
that is to say, they never marry \vithin their own tribe. To do 
so would be regarded as incest, and the one guilty of it, would 
be excommunicated from his family and tribe. Secondly, it I's 


not the young manTiimself thatis incharge of the negotiations 
in connection with the proposal. It is the mother, father and 
brothers. Thirdly, it is expensive to secure a bride. If thus the 
parents and the brothers (including cousins) do not approve of 
an early marriage or money should be lacking, the marriage- 
able young man may have to waitfor a longtime with an aching 
heart, before the achieves his heart's desire. 

Formerly the price of a bride was low. Fifty years ago it 
was fixed at Rs. 50/- or less. Nowadays it has risen to several 
hundred rupees. The story goes that a wealthy and prominent 
Bhil in the Gongtha State paid Rs. 2300/- f :r his bride. Under 
such circumstances it is no easy thing for the poor man to get 
married. In spite of the price to be paid for the bride it seldom 
or never happens that one comes across old spinsters or 
bachelors. Be it men or women they are practically without 
exception married at 20 or 25 years of age. The majority are, 
of course, married long before that age. As regards the mar- 
riage age, it is only during the last 50 years that child marriage 
has been practised. Formerly marriage was not contracted 
before adolescence. In the folklore of this people I have not been 
able to find a single instance of the hideous Hindu practice of 
child marriage having been followed. Nowadays it is, alas, far 
from uncommon. 

Polygamy exists as everywhere in non-Christian coun- 
tries. Most people have to be contact with one wife due to the 
fact that the women otherwise would not suffice. It is esti- 
mated that 15% of the men have more than one wife, and out 
of these 1% have three or four. Although the Bhil woman does 
not have the same disposition as her European sister it must 
be admitted that polygamy often results in jealousy, quarrels, 
fighting, divorce and so on. 

The man on his part is just as jealous as any European 
might be. He looks upon his wife as his property, which he or 
his parents have honestly purchased. Woe untohim who dares 
to fall in love with his wife! That may mean death. Especially 
tJiis is the case in Akrani. Otherwise he may be satisfied with 
getting the money he has paid out for his wife so as to enable 
him to buy another one. Divorces of this kind are rather com- 
mon among the Bhils, especially on the plains. Before anything 
is said about engagement and wedding rites, some other 
peculiarities in connection with marriage must be mentioned. 
One is the so-called levirate,. and the other is rather 
common usage of the bridegroom serving for several years 


with his prospective father-in-law for his bride. The levitate 
exists only among the Kotli tribe, as far as I know. But they 
regard it as proper for a younger brother to marry the widow 
of his deceased elder brother, whether she has any children or 
not by her first husband. An elder brother, however, may not 
marry the widow of a younger brother. That would be incest. 
For the elder brothers are regarded as fathers of the younger 

The custom of serving the prospective father-in-law for 
the bride is common among all tribes, clans and tribal families. 
This is resorted to when for instance the young man has no 
money whereby to pay for the bride, or when the parents of the 
girl do not want to be separated from her. They then persuade 
a young man to become their "Koh-java", (son-in-law residing 
in the house.) 

A "Koh-java" has to serve for about three years before he 
is allowed to marry the girl. During this time he works just as 
an ordinary servant, the only difference being that at meals he 
is served by the maiden of his choice. But this is the only 
relationship between them. Any intercourse of an intimate 
kind would be severely punished. It goes to the credit of the 
young and testifies to a strict discipline still in force that not 
one in ten should break this unwritten law. 

Having come to the very act of the performance of the 
wedding I repeat what has already been said, that it is a 
complicated affair. There are no fewer than five stages with 
several subordinate ones that those concerned have to go 
through; or, to express it in a more dramatic way; it consists of 
five acts with several sense; quite a drama, then. 

The first act deals with the proposal, which is played in 
the home of the girl by the parents and brothers of the young 
man. This is called "hogai" (making of one kin.) The second act 
contains the return visitby the girl's parents to the village and 
home of the youth. This is called "Koho-herulo" (inspecting the 
house). The third act is "dej" (giving of dowry) or the engage- 
ment. The fourth is naturally the wedding which is called 
"voral" (with cerebral I). And the fifth act is "ano" (the coming). 
With this is meant the coming of the young wife to the family 
of her husband to stay there, after having paid a ceremonial 
visit to her parents' home after the wedding. 

Space does not admit any descriptions of the many 
ceremonies performed in connection with a Bhil wedding. One 
or two things may, however, be mentioned. All the acts, with 


the possible exception for the first one, are accompanied with 
profuse drinking, dancing and playing. Liquor is literally 
flowing. And all, men, women, children, drink, Liquor is the 
burden of a marriage tale. 

Another peculiarity is that the weddinghymns are sung 
only by women and children, and that it is a custom in these 
hymns to refer disparagingly to the one who is now be taken 
into the family, while the one belonging to one's own family is 
lauded without restraint. Thus for example the female rela- 
tives of the bridegroom tell in their singing that he is wealthy 
and noble, in possession of oxen, cows, buffaloes, and horses 
etc: in plenty, that he sits on a spirited charge with a saddle 
inlaid with gold and a golden saddle cloth; that he drinks finest 
liquor and eats the most delicious courses, and so on. About the 
bride, on the other hand, they sing that, by her poor parents 
and tribesmen, she has been bathed in the filthly urine of an 
ass, that she is poor as coolie, without other possessions than 
a donkey, which she rides on, or travels on foot, and drinks a 
mixture of cow-dung and water, eating pods and dross, and so 
on. Her girl friends and female relatives sing in like manner 
about the bridegroom and in the same glowingterms about the 
bride as did the people of the bridegroom to his honour. 

This peculiar custom corresponds with the boastful 
disposition of the Bhil. Does the Gond lack in self-confidence, 
the Bhil may be said to have got a double portion. This is 
revealed specially when he is drunk. 

Death and Burial Customs 

As the wedding so has the burial five acts. There are also 
many scenes to each act. Liquor plays an important part here 
too. It flows as drink and offering, as a tribute to the deceased 
and in ceremonies of purification. 

The first act is "dukh", (suffering, sickness); the second 
"mot" (death); the third "tijajo" (burial), the fourth "kukri 
parulo" (chicken offering), and the fifth is "vori" (festival of 
remembrance with singing and dancing). 

It is touching to observe the care and consideration 
bestowed on the deceased. He is presented with all kinds of 
commodities: clothes, ornaments, silver bars, money, water 
pitcher, pot house, liquor, tobacco and pipe, chickens, bread, 
spices, pulses, a cot (which has been used as a bier) etc: It is 
believed that he will need all these commodities in the other 


world, where conditions are regarded as similar to those in this 
world. In order to test whether the deceased has approved or 
not of the arrangements made, the floor of the house of 
mourning its strewn with ashes whereon grains of com are 
thrown. This is done in the evening of the day of the burial. If, 
in the morning, foot-marks of rats can be seen in the ashes, this 
is a sign that what has been offered to and done for the 
deceased has met with his approval. 

On the whole as in the details, the burial ceremonies 
present a sad spectacle without anything of inspiration. They 
bespeak fumbling in the dark before of death and eternity. 


As has been said already there live in West Khandesh 
more than 250,000 Bhils. In most cases they speak their own 
language or rather languages. During a Linguistic Survey 
executed by one of our missionaries on behalf of Government, 
no fewer than 15 languages or dialects were noted, including 
those spoken on the border lines as Khandesh Bhil dialects. 
Several of them are so closely related that by knowing one it is 
possible to understand other of them. Others, on the other 
hand, differ in such marked way that they have to be classified 
as diflFerent languages. 


The most important language is the one which is spoken 
in the western parts of Nandurbar and Taloda Talukas and in 
the Mewa States. This is called Dehvali, meaningthe language 
of the plain. This name has been given to it because the 
majority of those having it as their mother tongue live on the 

About 80,000 Bhils and others living among them speak 
Dehvali. It is no literary language, though. Before S.A.M. toolt 
up work among the Bhils there was not one single line written 
in that language. And when, in 1917, the Mission started to 
pay a little attention to this question, there was in existence 
only a translation of the story of the Prodigal Son and a few 
sample pieces written for a Linguistic Commission which had 
been appointed to classify the languages of India. Since then 
the Four Gospels have been published and later the whole of 
the New Testament has been translated and published by the 


British and Foreign Bible Society. In addition a few religious 
pamphlets have been published. 

The example of the Mission has given a push to the 
Hindus, who have also begun to take an interest in this 
language. Thus for example, a Hindu in Nandurbar Taluka 
has published a little book for children, containing fables and 
short stories. 

Another one has collected a fairly large vocabulary for a 
dictionary. On the whole, it may be said, however, the Deh vali 
is still an uncultivated language. Nor is any glorious future to 
be expected for it. Like all similar minor languages it is doomed 
to extinction. This will, however, take sometime. The major 
Bhil languages are bound to live for several generations yet, for 
the Bhil "- are a conservative people, espacially as regards their 


Up in Akrani, where Mandulwar is situated, four or five 
dialects of Bhili are spoken. The most important is no doubt 
Powri, which is spoken by the majority in this area. The Powri 
tribe also seems to be the most prominent of the hill tribes 
living here. 

Mandulwar, however, is situated in a different dialectal 
area. The language of the people here is Valvi or Volvi. Most of 
the Christian Bhils in Akrani speak this dialect. The Valvi 
speaking tribe numbers no more than five or six thousand 
people. Their language is, however, understood by a smaller 
tribe. Moyri, whose dialect is closely related to Valvi. The 
Moyris can only muster half the number. The number of the 
Powri tribe may be estimated at 10,000 persons if those living 
outside Akrani are included. 

In Valvi there is now available an Infant Primer, a small 
hymn book and a Catechism. In addition to these the New 
Testament bas been translated and printed by the British and 
Foreign Bible Society. 

All Bhili dialects belong to the large Aryan family of 
languages. There are, however, traces indicating that the 
Bhils formerly have spoken another language. These traces 
are few, and have not had much influence on the construction 
of these dialects. They come closest to Gujerathi. The Valvi and 
Dehvali dialects are closely related as are the people speaking 
these languages. 


The construction of the Bhili languages is simpler than 
that of many other North Indian languages. They are com- 
paratively easy to learn, provided grammars, readers, and dic- 
tionaries were compiled. 


The religion of the Bhils has hitherto been regarded as 
gross animism. For the present, however, it is in a transitory 
stage, being influenced very strongly by the crude form of 
Hinduism. Thus for example a number of the Hindu deities are 
being worshipped, as Hanuman (Maruti), Mahadev, (Shiva), 
Kali in the form of Devi, Parbati, and Bavani (Shiva's consort) 
a.o. In all some ten Hindu dieties are being worshipped by the 

The Bhils also celebrate the main Hindu festivals: Das- 
sera, Divali, Holi, a.o. although they are given a peculiar 
expression which is very animistic in its character. A certain 
caste system is being developed, which points to Hinduism. All 
Bhils confess to be Hindus. And since Hinduism is so compre- 
hensive as to have room for all and sundry, it may not be correct 
to call the Bhils non-Hindus. 

On the other hand are the peculiarities so many and so 
important as to mark these people as different from the 
Hindus. They have their own religion, which ought to be more 
known. The Government officials and Hindu and other reli- 
gious leaders are ignorant of its contents. Not even the mis- 
sionaries know in its details, although some have been permit- 
ted to peep into it. On the whole it remains a closed world. 

The Deities of the Bhils 

We have, however, got to know some of the superficial 
features. Thus we know that the Bhils have at least 25 or 30 
deities of their own which they still worship, although they are 
not looked upon as Hindus. Hindu missionaries andreformers 
are trying their best to put a stop to this, but, according to their 
own statements, they have not succeeded. The village will be 
destroyed; and so they will have to call in sorcerers and 
diviners again and sacrificial priests in order to put everything 
right. And. this will be too expensive, they say. 

A Kolhi bridegroom 

Chori, a wedding dance 

A Kolhi bride 

Jhoomer, a wedding dance 


Among the Bhil deities are: the tiger, the boundary of 
field god, god, Hivario, the village goddess Pandrio, the rain 
god Nonduro, and the hill gods, which are several in number. 
Hardly a month passes without the Bhils having to worship 
one of the 35 or 40 gpds or goddesses which have been adopted. 
Of the latter kind I'have the names of sixteen and of the former 

The very rites of worship, that is what mantras are 
mumbled, now the ceremonies are performed etc:; are known 
to me. The majority of the Bhils do not know them, this is the 
business and secret of the sacrificial priest. But this much is 
known, that the worship is always connected with liquor and 
offerings. As regards the use of liquor only two deities are 
excepted, namely Mahadev and Maruti (Shiva and Hanuman), 
both of which are Hindu deities. 

The following are among unbloody offerings: grain, 
coconuts, bread of wheat, cooked dumplings, rice, eggs, sweets 
and milk, and as has already been mentioned, liquor. As 
bloody sacrifices are presented: buffaloes, bulls, he-goats, and 
cocks,. Greldingsandfemalesarenotacceptablesacrifices. The 
animal must be a male and without blemish, After the birth 
of a child, however, a hen is offered. The officiating person is 
then a woman, namely the midwife. 

Similarly the milk that is to be offered must not be sour, 
nor eggs rotten. For the gods only the very best will suffice. 
The Bhils often eat other grain than rice and cheaper bread 
than wheat. But such things may not be presented as oflFerings 
to the gods. Other things required for a ceremonial sacrifice 
are red lead, sweet, oil and frankincense (from Boswellia 
serrata). The latter is used for incense and the lead for 
smearing the image. Two to four copper coins are also needed. 
Of the deities of the Bhils five have a day each set apart 
for them. On these days no one goes to work, neither beast nor 
man. Allthesedaysfall within the rainy season. They are: the 
rain god, the sun god, the field god, the tiger god, and the cattle 
god. On the day of the tiger god or on the previous evening, is 
also the snake worshipped. As has been seen the worship of 
these deities express the foremost needs of a primitivie people 
a good crop, healthy cattle, and protection against wild ani- 

The other gods have no whole day set apart for them. But 
their annual sacrifice is accorded to them. This must not be 
neglected or the people of the village will have to put up with 


no end of trouble. 

With the exceptions of the Hindu gods, Hanuman and 
Mahadev the Bhil gods do not live in temples or shrines. Three 
of them have platforms of earth or stone. The hill gods live in 
the open. 

Twenty-three deities are worshipped during the cold 
season, eight in the rainy season, and only two in the hot 
season. This arrangement has its natural reason. During the 
rains the most important gods of an agricultural and cat- 
tletending people have to be worshipped. During the cold 
weather after the crops have been harvested people are in a 
position to afford the expenses connected with the sacrificial 
ceremonies. In the hot season, on the other hand, taxes and 
debts have to be paid. Then much is not left over for the gods. 

As regards the sacrificial priests these serve their vil- 
lage. They are never house priests. Every house father is 
priest in his own house Anyone may become a sacrificial priest 
(Punjari). But as a rule this calling is hereditary. The secrets 
of the worship are not revealed to anybody, except the prospec- 
tive priests, which have been chosen by the Punjaris as their 
successors. The duties of the priest are not performed as a 
prefession or a calling. The Punjari is a cultivator like the rest. 
A Brahman is never called in as sacrificial priest or spiritual 

The majority of the male population of the village are 
present at the sacrificial acts. The leaders may not be absent 
without a valid reason. The sacrificial ceremonies havingbeen 
completed, the Punjari distributes part of the things offered, 
which may be eaten by those present, including the priest. 
Some religious festivals are rounded off by heavy eating and 
drinking bout. The expenses are paid by the whole village in 
common. The fees for the priest are only one anna, the coins 
offered, the food and liquor he has helped himself too. 

Evil Spirits 

In animism, an important part is played by the evil 
spirits, the demons, which are called 'Put' or 'Putlo'. Of these 
I have only got to know the names of a few. They are no doubt 
very numerous. The two that are most dangerous have their 
abode in graveyards and places for cremation. Should a person 
pass such a place when these.demons are on their way out, he 
will be at their mercy and their evil influence will either cause 


illness or temptation to evil deeds, e.g. collecting and carrying 
cremation ashes with the hands and so on. 

Most evil spirits live in trees, especially in hollow ones, 
others live in woods and on hills. One lives in Hades with the 
dead. Several have, however, taken up their abode with man, 
in his house or among his property etc. One may thus live in 
the bed, another one, in the bedpoles, a third in the doorframe, 
or in the door, a fourth in the threshold, a fifth in the ashes, and 
so on. Boldness is said to have its evil spirit, poison insanity, 
the bird all have their evil spirits. 

While the gods are favourably disposed to men, the evil 
spirits are always hostile. They are the cause of bad luck. 
Disease and death are wrought by them. Similarly imbecility 
and insanity. They are always planning mischief. They have 
to be feared everywhere, for there is hardly a place whereof 
their kind does not have his rightful abode. 

Among the demons or dangerous spirits are 'churaV and 
'soti'. The first ones are ghosts of women which have died in 
confinement, after the child has been born, but before it has 
been named, that before the fifth day after birth. The last 
mentioned are ghosts of brides who have died after they have 
been dressed for the wedding, but before the ceremony has 
been performed. Both of these very dangerous spirits or ghosts 
have their abode in wells, brooks, swamp, more seldom in 
trees. Woe unto the one who runs up against a being, of this 
kind! A soti is dangerous, especially to men, whom she will 
pursue, seduce and kill, should they happen to enter her 
sphere after dark. 

A'chural' will treat a man in about the same manner as 
does a 'soti'. But she prefers women. If opportunity off"er she 
will take possession of a woman. This means illness and 
insanity, and, if she is not driven out, a certain death. 

Fortunately a 'chural' may be identified. She always 
lights a torch when about to proceed on her tours; and if she is 
observed, several torch es will be seen around her. Her feet are 
turned and her fi"ont side has the appearance of a fully devel- 
oped woman, while her back is hollow like a trough. 

Witches and Magicians 

Belief in witchcraft, magic, ghosts, and sorcery. 

These, especially the witches, play an important part 
among the Bhils. There are, of course, magicians but they are 


not as numerous nor is their ability so great or disposition so 
vicious as is the case with the witches. A 'dagan' (witch) is 
almost worse than a demon. All sorts of bad luck and ruin, 
illness and death are caused by witches. They are therefore 
much feared. In reality those that occupy themselves with 
sorcery are very few in number. Most of those that are alleged 
of witchcraft are probably innocent. But there are those who 
practice witchcraft as an occupation. Whatever may be the 
case, if a woman has been pointed out as one who has 'eaten' 
a person, she will from that moment on remain a most deplor- 
able creature. She will be pursued, ill-treated and expelled 
from society. 

Ghosts of people that have met with an accidental 

If 'chural' and 'soti' may be said to represent also concep- 
tions found in popular Hinduism, the case will be different 
when we come to another of spirits; ghosts of people that have 
died by accident. It is true that in places these are worshipped 
also by the lower classes of the Hindus. But, as far as I know, 
they do not elsewhere play such an important part as among 
the Bhils. 

To die by accident is, curiously enough, not looked upon 
with horrorby the Bhils. It is rather a good form of death. The 
one who has parted in this way — be it man, woman or child 
— is said to have gone to the gods. And this is a reason to 
perpetuate his memory on earth. He simply becomes a god. 
This happens in the following way: 

After the burial in the ordinary graveyard, either a staff 
is made or a stone, three fact in length, is hewn. A picture of 
the deceased is carved on the wooden staff or hewn out of the 
stone. Over the head are drawn pictures of the sun, and the 
moon, and under the feet a pictorial description of his death is 
engraved. Thus for example, if he was drowned, the memorial 
will have a well or a river; if he died by falling down from a tree, 
from a cart, or a horse, a picture of the thing connected with his 
death will be formed. 

When the memorial is ready and clothes, ornaments, 
food and liquor have been bought for the new god, for that is 
what it will become, and sacrificial requisites and frankin- 
cense have been secured, three or four Tbhagats' (witch doctors) 
are called in to perform the ceremony. This is done with secret 
rites, sawying, mumble of mantras and a maximum of pag- 
eantry in the presence of all the male population of the village. 


Those of the women who are next of kin are also in the 
procession which now moves towards the house of mourning. 
Just outside the village the officiating priest makes a halt, 
causes a hole to be dug in the ground, in which the stone or the 
wooden staff, properly clothed, will be placed. Then it is 
smeared with lead diluted in oil. At the feet of it is offered 
liquor and the very best of food, cooked and raw. To the upper 
bracelets are tied. 

After this dedication the priests together with the crowd 
of people that have been invited make a big tree in the shade 
of which they sit down. Here liquor and costly food are 
partaken of copiously. When the time comes for the priest to 
come home, they receive a sum of money, not less than ten 
rupees for their services, and every body leaves for home. 

The new god is now called 'patli' if the memorial is of 
wood, and Tthotro' if of stone. The god will be worshipped by the 
people of his family, often by others as well. Before sowing, 
harvesting and threshing, and winnowing, and on numerous 
festivals this god has to be remembered with foodstuffs of rice 
and wheat and liquor, which never must be lacking, and a 
burning oil-lamp. Every village has one or more gods of this 
kind placed at its boundary. 

Medicine Men and Witch Priests 

If magicians and witches have no enviable position 
among the Bhils, medicine men and witch priests (madvi, 
bhagat, and hovrio) are given a place of honour and are very in- 
fl'iential men. For they are not mischievious, that is, they do 
not try to destroy people and cattle or eat them. Their duties 
are to investigate about the causes of bad luck and illness and 
remove them. They are also acquainted with the lives of gods, 
demons and other spirits and are able to teach this subject 
extensively. The madvi also knows how to appease the wrath 
of demons, ghosts and goblins and give them the kind of 
worship they crave. In like manner a bhagat is acquainted 
with the gods and knows how to fill their needs. 

But these 'Benefactors' of the people are not employed 
but practice in a private capacity. They know how to charge 
their clients heavily. As a rule, they are held in high esteem. 
People believe in their ability to make out the whereabouts of 
spirits, the causes of illness etc. from water, leaves from the 
flame of the forest, wings of peacocks or coarse paper, or copper 


coins. Just as deeply rooted fs their belief in their ability to 
cure disease, drive out evil spirits and bind them etc. 

Treatment of Spirits 

There exist many rules and regulations, rites and cus- 
toms, with a view to avoiding the evil influence of spirits. Thus 
certain trees, wells, places, woods and clefts in the rocks must 
not be visited without company or after dark, as they are 
supposed to be dangerous. Amulettes have to be used or else a 
special ring or another protective article. Even so one has 
every reason to be on one's guard, to be cautious, as one is 
surrounded on all sides by divine beings, which one may have 
offended unwittingly, and evil spirits, goblins, ghosts and 
other bad being which are always lookingfor an opportunity to 
harm a person. 

The tricks of deceiving or binding the spirits are many. 
Only a few examples may be given. When a woman who has 
died in confinement is to be buried, seeds of sesame and grass 
are thrown on the path between the boundary of the village 
and the grave yard up to the grave. This is to prevent her from 
reaching her home when during the first five weeks she will 
wander about every night trying to kill her child. This is done 
in the following way: Havingleft the grave for her old home she 
will stop to pick the seeds one after the other till the cock-crow. 
Then she will return to hei- grave, replacing the seeds one by 
one till she reaches the grave again. She will rest till the 
following night, when the same thing will be repeated. It is to 
the nature of the thing that a sufficient number of seeds are put 
out in order to keep the ghost more than occupied for the night. 
Another example. When a 'chural' has been discovered as 
having her abode in a woman, she will be driven out and 
confined to a tree by hammering several nails into the trunk of 
the tree. 

In all their childish simplicity these examples are touch- 
ing and clarify better than words the low standard of the Bhils 
in matters spiritual. 

The Ethics of the Bhils 

The ethical views of the Bhils do not range very high. 
Direct commandments and prohibitions, expres<;ed in concisely 


formed sentences do not exist. Rules and regulations, without 
the attention to which a society cannot survive, are neverthe- 
less to be found. They are theoretically imbedded in their 
proverbs and rather numerous tales and stories, which are en- 
countered within every tribe. Practically they are revealed in 
customs and usages, the age-long authority of which none 
dares to oppose. This might mean death in certain cases. 

Taking into consideration their highly unsatisfactory 
religion, it must be admitted that the Bhils are a people of a 
comparatively high moral standing. They compare favourably 
with the genuine Hindus. On the whole they are more truthful. 
For a primitive they are of remarkable good manners. A Bhil 
thathas notbeen degenerated will scrupously regard the right 
of ownership. And still he is not greedy or ungenerous. In some 
respects the sexual ties are very strong. That much in their 

The dark spots on the character of the Bhils are, how- 
ever, many and big. Drunkenness is probably more common 
among them than with any other people in India. Quarrels and 
frays, which often end in murder, are horribly common, espe- 
cially among the hill tribes. Adultery is also very common, 
often leading to divorce, when the offender after having paid to 
the offended man the sum fixed by the village or tribal council, 
will take the woman he h as fallen in love with as his wife. Then 
his position in society may be just as honourable as anybody 

The belief in sorcery and witchcraft darkens the life of 
many. It has caused murders without number. By their 
profound ignorance, which is looked upon almost as a virtue, 
the people are kept down in poverty, weakness of mind and 
body, which do not admit their intellectual growth or their 
looking for higher ideals. 

In their treatment of woman the Bhils are more ad- 
vanced than the Hindus. She is freer. The widow is allowed to 
remarry and may choose her own husband. But her condition 
is not enviable. She is practically sold as a bride. In the tribal 
or village council she has no say. In the worship r "the gods this 
holds also true with one exception (Cfr. Ch. iii.) If she dies as 
a bride or in confinement she will become an evil spirit, which 
is to be feared. Only if she dies by accident will she become a 
divine being. These details show that their reverence for a 
woman is deficient. 

Belief in Transmigration of Soul 
The Bhils and Eternal Hope 

Their is no eternal hope wdth the Bhils. It is true that 
they believe in immortality, but their conceptions of it are very 
vague. When a person has died he is said to have gone to God. 
It is not believed however that he will remain there for any 
length of time, let alone for eternity. Within short, some say 
after a day, he has to return to this world being bom as a 
different man. Nobody knows the length of this transmigra- 
tion. Nor does anybody know where or within which people he 
will be bom again. It is only known that he will be reborn as 
a human being. 

Behind the belief in a multitude of gods and goddesses 
the Bhil has caught a glimpse of a supreme Being, which he 
calls either Bhogvano or Ponmissar. In his heart of hearts he 
believes in this Being. Hence the spirit of the deceased goes to 
him. Bhogvano means the shining one, the adorable one, the 
glorious one etc. Ponmissar means the Overlord, the Supreme 
Being, the supreme or only God. 

Folk Thoughts 

1. Products of Wisdom 

1. As a man doath, it will bedone unto him. As ye sow, 
so shall ye reap. 

2. The father should suffer the fruit of his deeds, the 
son should suffer the fruit of his deeds. 

3. Come, thou stone and fall on my feet. To invite 

.4. If a blind woman succeeds ingettinga husband she 
will be busy over the bed. A blind person is not fit for marriage, 
for she can do nothing but make the bed. There is however a 
deeper meaning. 

a. A person who has not the proper qualities should 
not be given a responsible position. 

b. A person who is deficient, morally or intellectu- 
ally, should not be given responsible position. 

5. On his wedding day a noseless person has seven- 
teen hundred defects. A person who is to be married is badly 
spoken of. A deeper or more comprehensive meaning is the fol- 
lowing: A person who has once proved unreliable, will have the 
opinion against him, even if he shows signs of a better life. 

6. Even the noseless son is the offspring of the womb, 
and a forged coin is kept in the cloth. Every one loves his own. 

7. The mother-in-law has two days, but the daughter- 
in-law has (or will also get) her day. If the former is harsh and 
dominating, the latter may console herself with the hope that 
time will come when the old woman will be weak and helpless. 
Then she will be paid in her own coin. This is also applied to 
proud and oppressive people in influential positions. The day 
of reckoning cannot be evaded. 

8. The backbiter ruins the village, and the leper the 

9. The blind man speaks and the deaf man listens. 
This is said about persons who do not understand what they 
are talking about, also of those who have misunderstood what 
has been said or an order given. It is also used about false 

10. As the potter, so the pitchers as the father, so the 
son. Corresponding to. Like priest, like people; and As the old 
cock crows, so crows the young. 


11. A learned man without virtue or ability. Learning 
does not always mean a good character. 

12. As soon, as he experiences erotic affections he wants 
to get married. He acts on the spur of the moment in a 
thoughtless way. 

13. As the country, so the dress. To do in Rome as the 

14. Stretch her she will break, blow at her, she will fly 

A description of especially female beauty, but also that of a 

Some of these proverbs are international property and 
have probably been take over from other tribes and peoples. 
But others are coined by themselves. Whether borrowed or 
coined do they indicate to a high degree that the Bhils are in 
possession or moral principles, common sense and a sense of 


If the Bhil is comparatively poor as regards proverbs and 
sayings, it seems as if he were rich in riddles. My collection, 
which together with the proverbs has been published in the 
Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay contains 
127. And this is probably only one seventh of the total number 
in use. 

Most of these riddles are so intimately connected with 
Indian life with its Oriental animal and vegetable life, so as to 
be untelligable to those who are not acquainted with these 
conditions. The selection made for this article have been made 
from those that have a bearing on subjects known even to the 
Westerner, although this procedure does in no way give justice 
to the rather high gifts of the Bhils in this field. 

1. The rope wanders, the ox is lying still? The cucum- 
ber and its tendrils. 

2. A man has put on one coat after the others? An 

3. Under the black rock there are four small fishes. 
The four udders of a buffalo and a cow. 

4. A fresh stick that none of us can bend? A snake. 

5. When does a person drive out the cows and milk 
the barn? Collecting honey. 

6. Who goes forward working and backwards eating? 
A chicken when picking for something to eat. 


7. Like the Alma river, like the queen of lightening 
does she wander hither and tither chatting? The squirrel. 

8. Two stand up, two flatter and four walk? The two 
horns, two ears, and four feet of the ox. 

9. A roaring tiger in a well? The chum-staff in a 

10. Aroundedbullock,diggingin an ant-hill? Achampa 
measure in measuring a heap of corn. 

11. When the calf of the black cow is driven out, won't 
return to any of us? A bullet. 

12. Having walked through the whole forest he stands 
on a space not larger than a small copper coin? A walking stick. 

13. A man who is neither cold nor warm and has no 
sense, begins to dive? A spoon. 

14. A tooth -pick used by two men? The axle of a cart. 

15. A woman leaving the house bending hither and 
thither. A broom. 

16. What animal drinks water with the tail? A lamp. 

17. There were hunters: one fired, one looked, and one 
ran? The hands, eyes and feet of the hunter. 

18. In a little chamber not bigger than a tumbler, 
there sits a talking lady? The tongue. 

19. A bird sits in a corner fluttering his wing? The eye. 

20. If you chew, it won't be chewed, if you cut it, it won't 
divide? Water. 

21. While the animal is grazing its marrow is taken 
out of its bones and eaten; then the bones are thrown on the 
dung-hill, while the animal goes on grazing? The hen and her 

22. A white house without doors? An egg. 

23. She has neither hands nor feet, and still she goes 
out to work? A jacket. 

24. Which is the biggest of all the musical instru- 
ments? Thunder. 

25. The red cows graze, the black cows butt, and the 
black calves suck? A conflagration. 

26. From one single ear the whole barn is filled with 
chaff? The wick and the light. 

27. What is the shadow of a small pipri-tree, fretted 
with rays of light with shall buds (or jasmine flowers) round 
about? The moon and the starry sky. 

28. An eagle has 12 wings and 18 scores of eggs? The 


year with its 12 months and 18 scores of days. 

Whatever be the opinion as to the value of the riddles of 
the Bhils, it cannot be denied that they indicate powers of 
observation and imagination not to be despised. 

2. The Bhil as Poet and Singer 

As authors of poetry the Bhils do not rank high. They do 
not lack poetical products, it is true, but these in no way be said 
to be of any importance of whatever. In them we find neither 
any flight of imagination nor any deeper feeling. The outward 
form is usually trivial and flat. 

As regards the subject matter it is poor. In this respect 
the Bhils lag behind many other aboriginal peoples in India. 
For instance they do not have anything that can be compared 
with theremarkable Lingo hymns of the Gonds. Their poetical 
products are confined to simple hymns for use at festivals and 
sacrifices, besides wedding hymns and one to two hymns to 
describe certain objects. 

It is important, though, to get to know them, for in one 
way they are the key to the heart of the people. In order to give 
some insight into the poetical life of the people (Bhils) a few 
samples will be produced. First a few remarks: 

Among the hills men and women never sing together. 
Singing is further not a part of their daily life. It is resorted to 
only at festivals and weddings. In the weddings only women 
and girls do the singing. This is also the case at holi. At dehvali, 
on the other hand, the singing is performed by men only. For 
the uninitiated it would seem as if women also partook in the 
singing. For many men are dressed up as women. These men 
may occasionally carry a baby in their arms while dancing, to 
make the disguise perfect. 

Wedding Hymns 
Waiting for the Bridegroom 

In the valley of Kathi the brother is saddling his horse, heigh 


When the horse has been saddled, the brother will come, heigh 


The guns matters, the brother is coming there, heigh ho! 


Hearing the sound, the bride begins to cry, heigh ho! 
She cries till the eyes get swollen, heigh ho! heigh ho! 

The hymn is sung by the female relatives of the bride- 
groom and his girl friends, when he is expected to the shami- 
ana erected for the wedding festivities. 

When the Bride is sent to the Home of her Husband. 
The way is so long. Oh sister, don't return alone. Oh sister. 
If father-in-law gets angry, Oh sister, don't return alone. Oh 

If mother-in-law gets angry. Oh sister, don't return alone. Oh 

If sister-in-law gets angry. Oh sister, don't return alone. Oh 

If little sister gets angry, Oh sister, don't return alone. Oh 

If brother-in-law gets angiy etc: 
If little brother etc: 

If husband etc: 

Thus hymn is sung by the mother, sisters and friends of 
the bride when she is sent for the first time to her husband's 
home to live with him. 

Little sister is the younger sister of the husband, little 
brother his younger brother. 

Hymns to the Gods 

Hymn of sacrifice to Holi 
Holi, holi keep holi for twelve months, heigh ho! 
Two coconuts place at the feet of Holi, heigh ho! 
Holi, holi keep holi etc: 

Two garlands of sweets place at the feet of Holi, heigh ho! 
Holi, keep holi etc: 

Two young roosters place at the feet of Holi, heigh ho! 
Holi, keep holi etc: 
Two he-goates place etc: 
Holi, keep holi etc: 

Two he-buffaloes place at the feet etc: 
Holi, keep holi etc: 

Holi is the springfestival of India. It is celebrated during 
the month of March. On this occasion passions are let loose as 
at no other time. To the Bhils holi does not only represent a 
festival, when, as among the Hindus, Krishna is being wor- 
shipped, but Holi is to them the personification of a goddess. In 


the above hymn Hoh is presented both as a goddess and as a 

Hymn of praise to Kol Boari 

I have come quietly dancing, Kol Boari, 
I have come in a light shadow, Kol Boari, 
I will build the fallen fence, Kol Boari 
I will give milk and butter plenty, Kol Boari, 
I will fill the empty grain-bin, Kol Boari 
I will get many coins, Kol Boari, 
I will leave laughing and dancing. Kol Boari, 
I will leave dancing and jumping, Kol Boari, 
I will take names of gods, Kol Boari, 
I will take the name of Dehvali, Kol Boari, 
I will take the name of Queen Dehvali, Kol Boari, 
I will take the names of precious crowd, Kol Boari, 
This hymn is sung responsively at the Dehvali festival 
which is celebrated during the cold season, (end of November, 
in December, or in the beginning of January). The first verses 
are sung by a man disguised as a woman; and the last four by 
a man in his own clothes. 

At Dehvali the Bhils worship many gods. The name 
means the festival of lights. And so it is to the Bhils. But they 
have personified Dehvali and made her a goddess. 

Kol Boari is really the meat-offering, consecrated by the 
priest, of which he gives a pinch to each on of those present or 
those standing near by. reception of this they prostrate 
before the object of worship, offering what they have re- 

In this hymn, however, Kol Boari has been personified. 
It is the goddess praisingbefore the Bhil. She is going to fill all 
his needs in the barn, in the grain-bin , in the milk vessel, in the 
butter tub and in the money bag. Then there will be joy and 
hilarity in his house. 

In the last four verses it is the Bhil, anxiously asking 
whnt divine name he is to take, that is to be called upon when 
she has left. Which god shall he worship? Shall he worship 
Dehvali? Shall he worship the "'precious croyd"? The last 
expression refers to the numerous gods living in the moun- 
tains, clifts and caves, and their worshippers. Kol Boari appar- 
ently approves of this, for she is silent and disappears. 

This hymn, which is one of the best hymns to the gods. 


is un-doubtedly very old. The opening word, which has been 
translated with I is anna. It is of Dravidian origin, correspond- 
ing to nanna and anna of the Gonds and the Tamil nan. 

3. The Bhil as Story Teller 

If the Bhil is a poor poet, he is a comparatively good story 
teller. The Bhils regard it a pleasure to sit down to listen to the 
tales, fables and stories, told by their bards, and which contain 
more humour than we should except. Some humoresques are 
rather funny. The recital is done in the form of monotonous 
singing so common in India. In several of the tales God is 
presented under the names of Bhagwan (Bhogvan) or Ponmis- 

While reading these stories it should be kept in mind, 
that they are the products of a primitive aboriginal people. The 
knowledge of God they give evidence of, goes to show that God 
has revealed himself to them in some way. 

The first of the stories presented is a translation from 
Dehvali, the second from Valvi. 

The Origin of Fever 

In days gone by there existed in the world of sun (on 
earth) neither fever, cough, pain or any other suffering among 
men. People used to eat, drink and live in undisturbed happi- 
ness. They had no idea about God. On account of this, God gave 
himself up to deep thinking. He said, 'I have created the whole 
world and the whole of humanity, and nonetheless I have been 
forgotten. But if they be overtaken by suffering, they will 
remember me and call upon my name.' Then he called the 
angel Lalkathio and said to him, 'Go and call Fever, and bring 
him to me.' 

Lalkathio made off on the spot to call Fever (Boro). He 
was as big as a donkey and was wallowing in the ashes of the 
dust heap. 

Lalkathio went up to him and said, 'Brother Fever, why 
do you lie here idle?' 'Come on God is calling for you. 

Having heard this. Fever, big as a donkey, rose with 
haste and shook his body. Then the whole country was dark- 
ened by the dust, that fell from him. So much ashes had stuck 
to him. 


Then he went straight to him (God), Placed himself 
before "him with folded hands, saying, 'Oh God, what orders 
have you for me?' 

God answered, "Well, you should go down to earth (the 
world of the sun) and cause man to be smitten by fever.' 

No sooner had Fever heard this than he prostrated 
himself before the Lord, whereupon he immediately left to 
execute the order. 

Having reached the world of the sun, he found people 
occupied with preparing hemp. From this work they had got 
such a bad kind of itch, that they were scratching themselves 
as if they were mad. 

Seeing this. Fever began to wonder whether men had 
lost their mind, or what might have befallen them. They were 
scratching themselves all over their bodies. 

Come what may, Fever said to himself, I have to execute 
CJod's orders. And so he began to approach the men. 

Then came a gust of wind stirring the hemp stalks, some 
of which fell down on the donkey-shaped Fever. And so he too 
was attacked by such a bad itch that the whole of his body was 

This was more than he could stand. He therefore turned 
and ran off as fast as he could, swaying his tail. The puffs 
caused by the swaying of the tail struck the people, and so they 
were attacked by fever. Fever passed through the heavenly 
spheres, returning to God. Here too he continued to scratch 
himself, wandering about like and mad man. 

Asked by God what had befallen him, he answered, 'Oh 
God, I have been struck by the madness of the people in the 
world of the sun. The Lord told him to return to his former 
dwelling place. He then rushed off in a hurry to the dust heap 
and lay down to wallow in the ashes. 

Ailer these happenings God adopted the shape of a holy 
man and went down to the world of the sun. There, people were 
lying here and there in fever. Seeing this he began to fan 
them softly and to give them medicine. In this way, they were 
cured from the fever. He also introduced worship of God and 
gave rules for sacrifices and worship. Having thus taught men 
he disappeared. 

It is in this way that cough, fever, pain, and suflFering 
have come into this world. It is worthy of note that the fever 
that entered the world, was only the result of the puff caused 
by the donkey-sized Fever swaying his tail. But even so this 


fever is a great suffering to bear for man. What might not have 
happened if the donkey-sized Fever had been allowed to 
remain on this earth. People would not have been able to stand 
it. The death of tomorrow would have taken place today. 

But lo, the purpose of God was only to keep man in 
submittance. All power is his. But in his mercy he has sent a 
fever only caused by the swaying of a tail. In this he has 
bestowed upon us his mercy, for which we daily in the early 
morning ought to offer him our humble worship. 

The Revenge of the Sparrow 

Once upon a time there were a he-sparrow and a she- 
sparrow. They had both united and lived ofT the grains and 
seeds they could find and pick up. One day it so happened that 
the she-sparrow got it into her mind that she ought to have a 
pair of new shoes. She immediately asked her husband to have 
a pair made and give to her. 

Both then went to the shoemaker, and the sparrow gave 
him orders to make a pair for his wife. The shoemaker an- 
swered; Tt shall be done. You may leave your wife here with me 
and go home. I will prepare the shoes for her and let you have 
them. You may come to fetch them tonight!' o 

The sparrow then left his wife and went home. The shoe- 
maker then rose and killed the she-sparrow and put her out in 
the back-yard to dry. In the evening, about the time when the 
cows come home, the he-sparrow came and asked, if the shoes 
for his wife were ready. The shoe-maker answered. The skin 
has not dried yet, and you come here to ask for the shoes. Go 
and see if it has dried, and come back and tell me then.' 

The sparrow went out to investigate. What he saw made 
him astonished, and he cried out, The shoemaker has killed 
my wife!' 
Weeping and crying vehemently he went tahis house. 

Some time later one evening he yoked two rats to a cart 
and started out on a journey. Driving along the road he came 
across a fresh splash of cow-dung. This began to address him, 
saying, 'Brother, where are you going? 'I am going to the 
shoemaker,' replied the sparrow. The cow-dung then asked 
him if she might go with him. Yes, you may come along,' said 
the sparrow. 

He then sat up in the cart and both went on. After a while 
they met a scorpion. He too began to question the sparrow as 


to where he was going. The sparrow answered, The shoe- 
maker has killed my wife. We are on our to his house,' Said he, 
'May I too come along?' 'yes, it is alright, come on.' 

The scorpion sat up in the cart, which rolled on with the 
three passengers. Driving along they met a snake. As soon as 
the snake caught sight of them, the snake rose and addressed 
the sparrow, saying, "Where do you intend to go, brother?' "We 
are on our way to the shoemaker,' replied the sparrow. 'May I 
too come along?' the snake went on. he sparrow said, "Why not, 
sit up.' And the cart rolled on again. 

Proceeding they met a dove. She began to ask, 'Brother 
Bird, Brother Bird, where are you going?' The sparrow an- 
swered, 'The shoemaker has killed my. wife. We are now going 
to see him.' The dove said, 'I will come along too.' 

He allowed her to sit up in the cart and started off again. 
Within short they had reached the Shoe-maker's house. Here 
they first took council as to the duties to be allotted to each one 
of them. And so a plan was made. 

The cowdung sat down by the door and the scorpion on 
the candle-stick in the niche of the wall. The dove went to the 
fire-place and the snake struck the shoe-maker. The shoe- 
maker got terrified and began to shout, 'I have been stung by 
a snake, I have been stung by a snake!' 

His wife then went to the niche to light the lamp. But 
there was the fresh cowdung by the door. And she had the bad 
luck to step into it and down she fell. A thud was heard. She 
rose, however, immediately and stretched out her hand to light 
the lamp. Quick as lighting the scorpion gave her a sting. 

She also began to shout and made for the fire-place, 
where she started to blow at the coals to make a fire. Instantly 
the dove began to flutter her wings and caused the ashes to 
come into her eyes, which she then began to rub. Then the 
shoemaker died. 

The bird now yoked the rats to the cart again. His 
companions all went to their homes. And the sparrow returned 
to his home and lived there. 

Social Life 

To lease an improved and rational system of living on the 
culture of an aboriginal tribe may stimulate the less critical 
observer to nourish feelings of surprise. Aborigines and their 
primitive culture acquired - thanks to disorted reports of 


explorers who usually culminate their investigations by re- 
leasing a flood of minimising and prejudicial literature on the 
subject-acquired the reputation of forming the elements of the 
lowest possible strata of human advance and this stage of 
affairs became an ill-used criterion applied by mankind who, 
only too eagre to cover its own shortcomings, loves to draw 
attention to those inhabitants of the Earth less advanced (or 
should one; say less shrewd) than itself. Contempt and the 
cherished manner of looking down on less fortunate fellow- 
creatures resulted consequently in harmful misunderstand- 
ing which could so far not be drowned by the voices of a very 
limited number of interested and understanding investiga- 
tors. Even the school books are packed with wrong and entirely 
misleadingdescriptions of thelife, modes of living and cultural 
manifestations of aborigines and it is hardly astgnishing that 
this type of knowledge - once established in the receptive mind 
of a young grain-tends to remain fixed. The mere mention of 
the word "Junglewallah" provokes a shudder, projectingphan- 
tastic scenes of naked tribesmen hunting in hostile virgin- 
forests, notions of squalor and filth, primitive life in caves and 
blood thirsty feasts on unspeakably repulsive kinds of food. 
The Press, magazines and Film further corrupt the minds of 
children and adults by presenting the aborigines in a manner 
irresponsible and positively prejudicial, exploiting by this 
means man's utterly regrettable inclinations to see and to hear 
something about hair-raising habits of some isolated and 
rfeglected tribe. The impression is created that one should be 
very glad to belong to a more cultured circle, apart from a 
deliberately fostered tendency to keep aloof from those wretched 
creatures the sight of which is already enough to drive anybody 
to fits. Did not every one of us read thrilling stories of aborigi- 
nes who roast their slain opponents to death? Certainly canni- 
balism did exist, though it has long been proved that cannibal- 
ism was based on a carnal lu-st and cruelty, but noTbody felt 
prevented to believe that this kind of barbaric lack of consid- 
eration-that contributed so much to the rather doubtful repu- 
tation of aborgines is nothing else than a ritualistic manifes- 
tation of a certain type of culture excellent in the eyes of the 
adherents, but not too pleasing in the eyes of the civilised 

Besides, the city-dweller whose whole outlook on life is 
exclusively centred on appearances, make-ups, aping of supe- 
riors, fashions and super-smart chit-chat on world-reforms, 


brotherhood and mutual understanding etc, feels instinctively 
repulsed when he is compelled to contact a stray -member of an 
aboriginal tribe. The junglewallah is usually the exponent of 
poverty and shabbyness his simple manners do not make him 
eligible to membership of dandy-clubs and notto well-fedin ad- 
dition, the tribesman unwillingly contributes to the mainte- 
nance of wrong ideas as to himself. This shy and helpless be- 
haviour, his embarrassment apparently stress that he merely 
belong to the skum of mankind. The impression is indeed quite 
wrong; somejunglewallahs maybe rascals, the majority, how- 
ever, incorporated more candable elements into the simple but 
pure culture of their tribes, thought less civilised as they may 
be, the abrigine positively represents, a most valuable type of 
man and it is the very object of this study to analyse, to 
compare, to sift and to separate the characteristics of aborigi- 
nes with the aim of establishing a definite programme of 
rejuvenation, reform and appreciation. This paper is not in- 
tended to be another ethnological treatise, though based on 
ethnology, it aims at the creation of a new spirit, a new 
attitude. Once consciousness is acquired, it will ultimately 
result in a new culture and mental outlook combining the best 
that the so-called primitive and the advanced civilizations 
have to offer. Logically, only those who deeply plunged into this 
most fascinating subject are entitled and able to undertake 
such a task. 

Besides, the great number of tribes makes it from the 
very beginning impossible to consider all the good elements of 
all the various tribal cultures and, consequently, the writer 
prefers to limit his scheme- though not lessening it in value • 
to a comparative study of the Bhils (Kandesh) who, after an 
existence in exclusion casting many centurise, have succeeded 
in preserving an exceedingly high culture absolutely from 
hampering influences from outside. A culture sparkling with 
life, simplicity honesty and a notable absence of hypocrisy. 
These assets alone are worthy of any effort. Present day's life 
became so cramped an affair, complicated in all its details, 
dominated by greed, falsehood and hypocrisy, boredom and 
lack of sincerity and it is imperative to question the usefulness 
of so wretched a force which our lives have happened to 
become-through our own fault. Should we not listen to the song 
of aborigines peacefully relaxing in the shade of a mohur tree? 
A song so free from wordly haste, so rich in sound, saturated 
with a melodious narrative of love, frank longing, fulfilment 


and happiness. This is the language we should learn to under- 
stand and once understood, we will cease to be slaves of our 
own life and our self-created institutions. 

It is unnecessary to dwell on the origin of the Bhils. Many 
writers have stated that they inhabit their land since the dawn 
of history and not being able to contradict such a statement, 
matters are left as they are, in as much as they have no direct 
bearing on the aims of this publication. One circumstance, 
however, is noteworthy. The Bhils do not stand back in their 
earliest efforts to discover the great riddle that envelops the 
creation. The small selection of my theological accounts that 
follows, proves that the Bhils, despite an entire absence of any 
form of intercourse with any of the highly advanced - but now 
extinguished - peoples or nations, acquired beliefs not much 
unlike those the great Western Cultural movements. 
Any body acquainted with the mythology of the East will not 
have the impression that the religious myth of the Bhils offers 
anything fundamentally new or distinguishable. But this is 
not the point; the realization that the Bhils were-despite the 
lackof contact with the outer world-able to develop a theory not 
(in principle) much different than the mythological interpreta- 
tions of dominant folk groups in India and elsewhere, is 
witness of an advanced degree of reasoning. It is not intended 
to claim that the Bhils succeeded in discovering the facts that 
really governed the act of creating the Universe. They are 
positively utterly mistaken, though aiming at the proper dem- 
onstration of the great trend that characterises everything 
produced by the Bhils, namely simplicity and the desire to seek 
delight even in un-explainable happenings. Simplicity is the 
key-note; the inexplainable is taken for granted. For the sake 
of convenience, gods act in the same way as any Bhil would like 
to act. This very convenient attitude attributed to the Creative 
Powers was withouthesitation applied when human problems 
were at stake. If every thing is feasable in theory, then it should 
as well be feasable in practise and no worry or anxiety are not 
able to produce anything creative. The Bhils adopted such a 
simplified outlook on life as one of the main objects of their 

It must be stressed that it is not intended to advocate as 
truth the religious beliefs of the Bhils nor will it ever deem 
desirable to make any attempts aiming at a world-wide estab- 
lishment of a new religion based on Bhil beliefs. Should, 
however, the introduction of a new belief result in a losing of 
fVinao Viarrassiner conventions that strangle our present life, 


well, in such a case it would be justified to do so. The conflict 
that would result would, however, culminate in more damage 
than good and the solid points therefore to the mere acceptance 
of a desirable attitude and out-looks. 

There is not the slightest doubt that our present civiliza- 
tion resulted in an unheard advance. Innumerable amenities 
are at our disposal, new inventions make us believe that our 
lives became richer and worthwhile living, though it must be 
admitted that this type of advance deprived us from any 
chance to live in a natural way, to express ourselves freely, to 
act accordingly to our desires, to express our feelings in a 
fashion devoid of hypocrisy, man has himself completely 
undermined confidence in himself and his brethem are no 
more able to meet him on terms of mutual goodwill and under- 
standing. Present day's life is absolutely barren of simplicity, 
we watch each other with fear and have to maintain an 
uninterrupted state of alert and the whole atmosphere in 
which we move seems to be saturated with poisonous vapours. 
This is the result of civilization. 

Now, any advance that really results in an advancement 
of our liberties can only be sought by struggling against those 
powers that corrupted our very existence. There is no need to 
discard the good, through there is no limit, in acquiring more 
properties and by pointing to the culture of the Bhils, it must 
be understood that nobody is expected to accept without reser- 
vation any out-of-date conceptions that might still linger in the 
minds of the Bhils. Unconditional surrender of the whole 
structure of our own outlook is bound to be followed by an 
irrational upheavel and it is more advisable to borrow from 
others. We can borrow a good deal from the Bhils, though, of 
course, they as well have to borrow from us, but it will be 
demonstrated that the aboriginal has greater treasures to 
distribute than any member of the highly advanced races. 


With other nations of the East the Bhils share the belief 
that the Universe consisted in the beginning merely of an 
enormous boundless sheet of water, enveloped in darkness. 
This state of affairs was, however, interrupted by the appear- 
ance of an enormous light which emitted a bell-like sound. This 
sound, gaining in volume, acquired the shape of a man who, far 
from being passive set out to create various parts of the 


Universe by putting his hands on the sheet of water and 
continents appeared wherever his hands came in contact with 
the wet element. The stretches of water dividing the conti- 
nents were conveniently called the sweet sea, the saltish sea, 
the chik sea, the kid sea, the black, the oily and the yellow sea. 
The whole Universe was thereafter in an orderly fashion 
divided into 9 parts though a tenth region had to be added 
suitable for the erection of a holy town. 

As soon as it became evident that a reliable sources of 
light must be made available, the huge man ordered that a sun 
has to appear, whilst a softer light was required for the 
illumination of nightly sceneries. Additional arrangements 
caused the moon to increase and decrease which greatly aided 
the inhabitants of the World to determine time and seasons. 

In order to animate the Earth, insects were created by 
Cxod, first those that live in the water and those that live on the 
firm surface of the Earth. An additional blessing was added in 
the shape of grasses, trees, shrubs and fruits and the insects 
soon understood that they are meant to grow for their own 
maintenance and protection. God furthermore decided that 
the introduction of the Summer, Rainy and Winter Seasons 
would greatly facilitate matters and he did accordingly. 

God, however, was not satisfied with the thought that 
His creation was merely inhabited by insects and he took thus 
some earth into his hands and moulded 2 human beings, a man 
and a woman. By the blow of his breath life was impated to the 
moulds and with His blessings the two started to rule over the 
Earth and over every thing on it.. 

The first man and the first woman - called Mahadev and 
Parwati - became the ancesters of all mankind. Their son and 
daughter formed one union resulting in a vast multiplication 
and every one has to trace his origin back to this couple. 
Though the increasing number of men soon resulted in a clash 
of opinions and various castes and religions resulted from the 
querrel, but every body was as liberty to follow his own 
vocation, some occupied themselves with the cultivation of 
their lands, others served or reard domestic animals. 

Every thing went well and according to plan, but every 
body felt that the sky was still missing and the impassionate 
God created the sky covering the whole Universe, adorned by 
the sun and the moon. In order to prevent the sky from falling 
down, the sky had to be well fixed and He used for this purpose 
a good many nails. The nails are still to be seen; they acquired 


the form of stars and it is worth mentioning that God abstained 
from using the nails indiscriminately. The nails were placed in 
such a position that they represented the outline of things well 
known on Earth, and He omitted not to design a cot, a bird 
sitting on its eggs, a plough, a thief and a dog. 

On the moon, so ample in space, a banyan tree was 
planted and on one of its spreading branches a witch was 
hanged as a warning to all the world. The witch is still hanging 
there to-day. 

Sincere in his eadeavours to maintain the world in good 
order. God passed orders regulating the health or man and 
beast. Thus, God desire that we keep our house and its sur- 
roundings clean by sweeping the refuse into gullies or water- 
courses. Fortunately, sweepers are available to occupy them- 
selves with such a task, but so far as the jungles had to be 
cleaned themselves. The dirt of the jungle and the remains of 
fallen animals are eaten by other creatures and foulness and 
evil smell is removed. The leaves falling from the trees are 
swept away by the wind and deposited elsewhere till the rains 
burst. The torrents recondition hills and valleys, cany the dirt 
to the sea where it is finally consumed by insects - burdened 
with the task of keeping the seas transparent and clear. And 
by this means sun-light, air and water, insects and animalsbe- 
came helpers of Crod. 

This legend, incorporating the main principles of the 
religious beliefs of the Bhils, underwent alterations and vari- 
ations of the same theme are narrated wherever Bhils have 
settled down. There is, for instance, the story told of 7 sisters 
who, after being created by God, were ordered to descend to the 
bottom of the sea. The 7 sisters obeyed the command and as 
soon as their feet touched the sea-bottom, they set out to collect 
sand and earth (mud), forming with great care piles which, 
after assuming proper size and shape, became the continents. 
God was highly pleased with the excellent work done by the 
diligent sisters and he extended these the invitation to remain 
and to settle. He promised to send every year a rainy season 
conveying a feeling of happiness and freshness to every thing 
on Earth. The 7 sisters readily succumbed to this generous 
suggestion and since that day the arrival of the monsoon is 
every where expected with joy and longing. 

Another legend goes a step father. Its origin is insofar 
noteworthy as it clearly demonstrates that the Bhils, despite 
the utter primitiveness of their conceptions of the Universe, 


pondered the destinies of man. Fate, and the impossibility to 
escape from it, has apparently to a large extent occupied their 
mind. The sisters related to in the following legend certainly 
occupy the same status as an Angel of the mythology of other 
races. Their functions, at least, are the same. 

As the time the Almighty created Mahadev and Parvati, 
he created simultaneously 2 sisters who were employed in the 
service of God. They were given the task of writing down the 
fate of newly bom children. One of the sisters settled such 
items as the life in general, happiness, the various difficulties 
that have to be met in the course of the life and, finally death, 
whilst the second sister was empowered to fix by the means of 
notes the degree of wealth and earthly riches that fate kept in 
store for each individual. No power on Earth is strong enough 
to change or to alter the dictations bound to develop as 

The Bhil's fatalistic attitude towards fate is certainly 
one of the reasons that led them to acquire a sense of helpless- 
ness. Lack of impulsive initiative so far as their well-being and 
prosperity is concerned, is one of the characteristics so inher- 
ent in Bhils that much time will be needed before a change to 
the better becomes noticeable. 

One more legend may be added. It originated in our the 
desire to explain how it is possible for the Earth to resist the 
laws of gravi'j . Grod overcame this difficulty by placing the 
Earth on the head of a snake and, so that legend runs, the 
snake sometimes feels the heavy burden resting on her head 
and in an attempt to rid herself, the whole Universe is set into 
vibrations and the strange phenomenon becomes noticeable in 
the form of an earth-quake. 

It is inconceivable how this strange, phantastic and 
rather absurd myth kept strong and alive durig the centuries. 
It is therefore justified to say that those stories solely survived 
on account of the fact that bards and professional story-tellers 
chose them as particularly suitable. A primitive mind is at- 
tracted by glorified primitiveness and the circumstance that 
the very act of creating the Universe was a deed so absolutely 
beyond his power of comprehension, fostered probably a feel- 
ing of appreciation of the super-natural. No part, (not even an 
alteration of it) of Bhil mythology was ever incorporated into 
his religious beliefs. On the contrary, the Bhil ponders very 
little over God. He merely believes that (some kind of a) God 
is great and powerful and his worship consists only in applying 


some zinc-chloride or stones and boulders, being quite satis- 
fied that the sight of white pain ted stonesnotonly pleases God, 
but will also stimulate future generations to remember the ex- 
istance of God. Sometimes and temple is visited after having 
equipped themselves with a sufficient quantity of zinc-chlo- 
ride which is more or less lavishly, smeared on the very next 
best stone in sight, being it within the temple or near by. On 
such occasions chappals and boots are removed, one bows 
slightly butnot without reverence and the bow becomes obliga- 
tory when-ever the road passes a stone auspiciously shining 
with a coat of paint. 

Now, nobody is expected to imitate the Bhils so far as the 
ritual of their religion is concerned. Our attention is, however, 
drawn to the admirable lack of complicating factors. Religion 
ceases to be a menace; the Bhils do not believe in any kind of 
hellish existance ater death. One might be plagued with all 
kinds of devilish inconveniences during life time, but they are 
neither wished nor caused by God. It is God's business to be 
present at least somewhere in the Universe and, apart his 
whereabouts. He is expected to notice painted stones and show 
by means of some kind of benevolent manifestation that even 
the most insignificant efforts is highly appreciated. 

Taking into consideration that religious conflicts never 
upset the Bhil community and that no bitter reud ever resulted 
from doctrinal differences opinion, one dares say that this type 
of extremely simplified religion possessed more merits than 
usually admitted. The religion as such does not matter, the 
resulting attitude is most remarkable and, provided that the 
"civilised" world desires to learn somethingfrom so primitve a 
tribe, many of us should consider it worth the candle to 
scrutinize our own response towards the religion into which we 
were bom. Be it again stressed that no attempt is made to gain 
converts, it is merely desired that we should cease to make our 
life too burden some by attaching great importance to trifles. 
Life is encrushed with a host of disputable bagatelles. 

Much has been said as to religion. Religion is certainly of 
great educational value and one of the main pillars that 
supports the structure of Human Society. Unfortunately, reli- 
gion acquired many grotesque forms or developed complicat- 
ing ramifications which, grote-estranged from the principal 
idea that formed the initial foundation, lost their right to exist 
and is merely maintained for the sake of tradition. No country 


encouraged this trend more than India. Continuously splitting 
up in sections and sub-sections, the religious outlook became 
as confused as the sections into which man started to divide his 
circle or society, hardly leaving chances open to those who 
rather prefer to escape. 'Advanced Civilization' or its wrong 
interpretation is one of reasons. If mankind had remained 
simpler or had considered simplicity a value impossible to 
replace, man's cravingfor new variations of the existing would 
not have driven us so far. In some countries, it became fashion- 
able to applaud and follow anything that is new, particularly 
if the new caters for those of us who believe to have finally 
discovered something that might satisfy their longing for 
sophisticated mental torture and mortification. Happiness is 
neither at the bottom of such distorted longings, nor any 
happiness ever results by rushing unihterduptedly to new 
ideas. The old and well-established but lightheartedly dis- 
carded religious attitude of yesterday became nearly a thing of 
the past though not everywhere. The Bhils, for instance, are 
far away from lending a hand to bigotry, they never think of 
expressing any doubts so far as their religion is concerned and 
feel perfectly happy about it. The desire to complicate existing 
does not exist and although the ritual of painting stones does 
not appeal to adherents of other religions, it still remains a fact 
that the Bhils derive a certain satisfaction and consolation 
from doing so and, as the spirit counts and not the deed, one 
may justly say that we can indeed adopt the liberal idea and 
apply them in such a way that we free ourselves from chains 
which we ourselves have slung round our ankles. Bhil religion 
is not devoid of heathenly outlooks, but should they desire to 
do so, nobody should ever attempt to destroy their own beliefs 
not as long at least as the horizon of their happiness remains 

First as much as the mysterious events of the creation of 
the Universe merely awakened the desire to marvel at it and 
to wrap it into a mantel of glory, in the same way religion is 
approached by the Bhils and they are more than satisfied that 
if in transit values generally attached to things by which we are 
influenced or surrounded - should not be clarified and codifyed, 
as nothing can be gained by it. Clarification creates problems 
and each problem can only be solved by creating more and such 
a thing is, of course, not the path on which a Bhil would like to 
stroll. He is not dominated by religion, it is taken partly as a 
necessity, partly as the cause and reason of a good number of 


festivals and holidays and nobody, not at least a Bhil, has ever 
resented a festival. 

It is undoubtedly not a coincidence that even the tribes- 
man-who has never heard of any alike aspirations of other 
nations made many a start in order to reveal the even greater 
mysteries of life after death. Nobody has so far succeeded in 
tearing the veil that conceals the greatest of all mysteries, 
though it is more than amazing that so primitive a mind came 
to the same conclusions as did more advanced groups. It is 
likely that tales, describing the dreadful things that will hap- 
pen to any wicked person after death, circulated in the earliest 
times during which group movements and migrations took 
place. It can, however, not with certainly be denied that the 
Bhils possessed great imaginative power, combined with the 
desire to describe in such a manner the difficulties that await 
the sinner, that they represent any kind of punishment that 
could possibly be administered by themselves here on Earth, 
in case they were called upon to do so. Many things are 
described as wicked, for instance "driving cows from a field". A 
trifle in itself and extremely insignificant in the eyes of those 
who are not acquainted with life in village and jungle, but, 
alas, inferno awaits those who drive cows away, where they 
will be joined by those who are back-biters, cheats, liars or 
rogues or by departed souls of man who indugled into the 
following bad deeds; torturing an innocent animal, deceit, 
murder, intercourse with the wife of another man, unnatural 
intercourse or any sexual relations with sisters, sister's daugh- 
ter, aunt or grand-mother etc., infanticide, seducing a woman, 
theft, putting obstacles into good deeds, showing the house of 
a butcher, setting fire to houses, destroying com with the help 
of mantras, refusing water to the thirsty, insulting the sage or 
a monk, destroyingyoung plants, disobedience to parents, not 
must one be accustomed to rapt — Well, every body who is 
found guilty of anyone of those offences will be required to 
answer for them at the gate of heaven. The road leading to 
heaven's gate is not an easy one; the disciples of god Yama drpg 
the souls of the departed along a path ten times sharper tiian 
a sword, whilst those who behaved well during life-time reach 
Paradise with ease and comfort. Many calamities await the 
wicked sinner's soul;pits and ditchesfiUed with scorpions, fire, 
serpents, ants and worms form a perpetual menace and only 
those who succeed in getting through this infernal maze 
ultimately manage to approach God. 


As in any other religion, punishment awaits the bad. It 
is a kind of belief that crept into every creed; particularly 
useful if it is meant to influence the ignorant. It was actually, 
much better if fear was entirely obliterated from religion. 
There is no such thing like hell and infernal torture; God who 
created us, presented us in the same time with the ability to act 
wrong and as the wrong takes place during our earthly life and 
is so closely related to our life, any kind of wrong is punished 
here on this earth. Many escape punishment, others do not feel 
it or refuse to realize it. The threats of punishment after death 
are merely means of checking uncontrolled action and serve to 
maintain order. The soul, if their is any, has little to do with 
any deeds dictated by bodily lust or physical cravings and can 
therefore not be punished after death. 

The Bhils inclination to take things as easy as possible 
finds expression in all his way of life. No doubt, they could be 
happier as they are and it is rather essential to rid them of 
certain rude customs which could be achieved by introducing 
social reforms. Popularising social reforms faces, however 
difficulties due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the 
settlements or villages. Besides, people livingin remote village 
are inclined to be obstinate and headstrong so far as their own 
social customs are concerned, though, here again, the same 
attitude can be observed in towns with the only difference that 
constant contact with strangers is bound to result in a change 
of the ways of viewing things and a certain progress to the 
better usually results in the mitigation of limited and crude 
aspects that, by tradition , deprive social customs of any elastic 
adaptability. The villager and particularly the tribesman who 
dwells in forest and jungle usually suffers from some kind of 
inferiority complex which stimulates the desire to cultivate 
friendship exclusively with co-members of his own society, 
avoiding, so far as possible, contact with the world beyond the 
limit of the forest outskirts, a ban to the free development of 
their faculties is created which, of course, resulted in back- 
wardness. Although the Bhils are to a large extent themselves 
responsible for this state of affairs, many circumstances work 
together making it impossible to achieve the desired goal, even 
if agood number of Bhils had the intention to cast away certain 
crude customs and adopt those of more advanced clans or 
groups. Language is one of the chief obstacles and it should be 
attempted to introduce at least one common that could be 


understood by everybody. Only then will it be possible to bring 
them to the level of other advanced communities. 

One question arises: Who is to be blained?The tribesman 
was deliberately made to feel thathe is an extremely backward 
and ignorant creature and no possibilities and chances were 
offered to him to rid himself from so wrong an exposition. 
Provided efforts are made, steps could soon be taken that 
would lead the Bhils to cultivate the desire to contact the outer 
world. Such a chance was so far only very sparcely offered to 
hill-tribes. It was, on the contrary, not even wished that a 
change of outlook on life overlooked; they prefer to deal with an 
ignorant clientale from which greater profits can be extracted. 
Thus, the more shrewd communities. can, directly and indi- 
rectly, be made responsible for the backwardness of the Bhils 
who, not inclined to worry much about it, left things as they 
are. Lack of ambition and the complete absence of any thirst of 
power kept the Bhils in the background or in a kind of 
perpetual exile. Many traditions, customs etc. had hereby the 
change of being preserved and it is only too natural that they 
differ widely from those in use by wealthy townfolk. Town- 
dweller are, however, not therefore entitled to detest the 
primitive man. The latter has to a large extent in ancient days 
taken part in the gradual formation of our present social struc- 
ture and it is certainly not the fault of the oboriginal that 
others managed to outflankhim. The more intelligent man will 
always surpass ignorant, though ignorance has nothing in 
common with stupidity and the Bhils are certainly not stupid. 
They might be careless and easy-going, but one should take 
into consideration that a stay in any locality remote from the 
rest of the world exercises a paralising effect. Items that seem 
so important elsewhere, dwindle into insignificance and in- 
stead of acquiring additional faculties, mind and body feels 
dragged into the claws of animalism. The whole reason of life 
appears futile, struggle becomes absurd and resignation in- 
vades the mind. It is from this very angle that onehad to jungle 
the aborigines; it is preposterous to expect from them any thing 
with which they simply cannot be acquainted. Any body, for 
instance, who derives his livelihood by collecting forest-pro- 
duce hardly enabling him and his family to exist, will exhibit 
such a passive attitude. Accustomed to a dreary life and 
knowing that the lot of his forefathers did not vary in any way, 
does not feel induced to effect a change or, better even, he 
acquires the conviction that his ways of living are the best 


possible. In case he shares such an opinion with others, an 
atmosphere of happiness and contentment can be created and 
maintained. Not knowing the lure of refinement, he is satisfied 
with the available and consequently more happy than those 
who hastily rush from one innovation to the other, not even 
taking time the possibilities of one of them. 

Thus, primitiveness of the aborigin is not disqualifying 
and primitiveness excuses a certain crudeness that slipped 
into his daily life, though crudeness may riot be looked upon 
from that angle by the aborigin himself. In his eyes it is merely 
a lively, but natural manifestation of his own sphere. The 
introduction of reforms might possibly upset the equilibrium 
and instead of imparting benefit, the decreased pressure of 
handed down tradition can eventually result in a moral up- 
heaval and uproot whatever was firm so far. It will at least 
happen in extreme cases. In case now if his fellow-brethren 
object to tribesman's being coarse and rude, in such a case it is 
perfectly alright to be crude, because by being crude they 
merely cater for the expectations of those who do not for one 
momenc expect anything else. The introduction of refinement 
would only result in creating a ridiculous atmosphere of 
dandyism and far away from being understood, the tresspas- 
ser will only feel uncomfortable and try to fall back on the old 
standard, or even go beyond it in order to recapture his lost 
position. Uplift;, provided it aims at the amelioration of finan- 
cial calamities, is always welcome, but every step that at- 
tempts to transform a Bhil into a student of Shakespeare's 
works is wrong. The aboriginals will not benefit by it and 
Western Civilization will not see any blessing in it. The ability 
to read and write their own language is much more praisewor- 
thy and if this is achieved, the Bhils can for themselves decide 
if it is necessary to change their habits. 

With the view to stress that foreign influence is not 
always beneficial a few notes will follow; notes collected in 
places where Bhils are living. Moreover, the contents of tliese 
notes are utterances of Bhils themselves and it will be seen 
that education is not at all looked upon as an asset. 

Faithfulness, hospitality, strictest adherence to truth, 
chivalry towards women, respect for civilised person, and for 
the Administrator are virtues of the Bhils for generations past. 
So far as faithfulness and reliability go, no un-educated 
Bhil has so far disappointed. If he is entrusted to take a certain 
sum to a certain person, he will by all means faithfully carry 


out the command. The educated Bhil, however, can not be 
'relied upon; he will most certainly spend the entrusted sum 
somewhere and somehow for himself and refuge in all sorts of 
excuses in order to conceal the non-delivery of the money to a 
third person. 

In short, faithfulness and reliability disappear as quickly 
as education advances. From time immemorial, the laws that 
govern hospitability were irrefutable. If a guest arrives at the 
house of the poorest man where absolutely no food is available, 
the host will all the same inquire if his guest wants to share a 
meal with him and the offered meal will be available, even it 
means borrowing from the neighbours. The educated Bhils 
who pretend that their smaller knowledge rendered them un- 
approachable and dignified, does not feel inclined to extend 
hospitability to visitors, at least not if the visitor is unedu- 
cated. This change of one of the fundamental virtues of man is, 
by the Bhils themselves, ascribed to the corrupting influence 
of education; very little seems to be gained when instruction 
results in the abandonment of friends and relations, only 
because of the letter's lack of knowledge of the ABC. 

In the eyes of the Bhil, the speaking of untruth is one of 
the most despicable crimes. Whatever happened, the Bhil will 
always give a most correct description, even if it is detrimen- 
tal to himself. Even in case of homicide he has puzzled the 
courts of law and justice. The uneducated Bhil always con- 
fesses without restraint and his strong urge to speak the truth 
is by no means diminished by the knowledge that punishment 
may be hard. The slightly-polished Bhil behaves differently. 
HeuseshisinsufTicientknowledgein such a way that any com- 
mitment of his appears distorted in his favour; he hides and 
conceals the truth with the express aim of sparing himself from 
punishment. So the aborigin himself condemns any sort of 
education, firmly believingthat the ability to read and to write 
undermines tradition and custom and itis not astonishing thai- 
he eyes with disfavour the influences exercised by towns. It is 
likely that a good number of educated Bhils still abstain fVom 
violating the laws of their clans, though they cannot escape the 
sinister impression they create in the eyes of their uneducated 
brethren by reading books of any kind. 

The uneducated Bhil is always fond of his wife. The 
wives are not unduly petted; they are well watched by their 
husbands and tresspassing is certainly not allowed. Should 


any woman supply proof to her husband that she is guilty of 
unfaithfulness, in such a case punishment is dealt out in the 
form of a good thrashing or, if it comes to that, he murders his 
wife straight away. The educated Bhil abandoned drastic 
means of this order (which is laudable) and he prefers to desert 
his wife. To desert a wife is, however, according to Bhil's 
tradition, an unpardonable act and aborigine resents his more 
learned brethren's inclination to neglect whatever was consid- 
ered good by his forefathers. 

In justice to these Bhils who still honour tradition 
despite the limited education that might possibly have turned 
their minds, one must admit, that not every one misused his 
contact with school in such a way that he necessarily had to 
become a scoundrel. The primitive man does not know that 
knowledge can easily be put to beneficial use and not knowing 
what to do with knowledge he rather prefers to consider only 
its bad aspects. Knowledge had no room within the framework 
of his daily routine; knowledge was never desired, knowledge 
was alien and superfluous and his antagonism is excusable. 

Besides, very little use can be made of it when living in 
the jungle. Knowledge, once acquired, may induce ayoungster 
to leave his homestead; he might feel attracted by a more 
eventful life in town and the danger exists that he will sever 
relations with his own family and clan resulting in an es- 
trangement that can never be bridged again. Nevertheless, he 
has discovered that it is useful to go to school as it is a means 
to ameliorate his financial position. To free himself from the 
clutches of money-lenders is an art which he never understood, 
though realising that it can be done, his antagonistic attitude 
towards school and education may fade away and assist him 
directly to better his plight. Once he Realises that he benefits 
by the proper knowledge of prices, he will be able to check 
shrewd money lenders and thus raise his standard of living, 
desirable as such, provided he himself does not succumb to 
corruption or spend his earnings on drink. 

Aborigines in general and the Bhils in particular are 
often blamed for excessive drinking habits. Freely drinking 
forms an important item of the diet of nearly every Bhil and 
nothing on earth exercises a greater lure on him than alcohol. 
Knowing only too well that the intoxicating effect of liquor is 
detrimental to his general well-being, an aborigine may in so 
far be excused as drink is not always taken for the sake of 
getting drunk. The Bhils distrust for any kind of modem 


medicine, the remoteness of his village and the nen-availabil- 
ity of medical aid whenever he is confronted v^th an emer- 
gency, naturally lead him to believe that alcokol possesses the 
properties of a good medicine able to cure alVkinds of diseases. 
He fancies that liquor is the best antidote against fatigue and 
that any kind of bodily sufferings are bound to vanish as soon 
as he resorts to the bottle. He is furthermore convinced that al- 
cohol makes the brave even braver and that he gains strength 
for doing all kinds of things which he ordinarily would not 
carry out. 

In addition, alcohol is said to stimulate the appetite and 
as the Bhil is rather fond of eating he does not want to miss a 
chance and eat moderately for the good reason that he failed to 
create a hunger-rising condition. Thus many good and whole 
some properties are ascribed to alcohol and, besides, many ha 
hob days, celebrations and even his religious rituals could 
never properly be carried out without the flow of liquor. 

Alcoholic drink is knowm from the earliest beginnings of 
civilization. It is logical that any intoxicating liquid became, 
even in earliest times, highly priced, inasmuch as its very 
effect could not properly be explained. The desire to be coura- 
geous, strong and healthy exists every where and no wonder 
that aboriginal tribes cling much to it. Their lives are only 
maintained by physical labour and any sign of drinking endur- 
ance it taken as an indication of approaching age, increased 
weakness and consequently a restriction of physical abilities. 
If such indication can be counter-acted by a free intake of 
alcohol, it may not be surprising that it is actually done. 
Moreover, the life of primitive men is monotonous enough; 
festivals may be frequent but they do not last for ever and even 
the merriest ceremony does not decrease or mitigate the 
necessity to return to the daily routine of hunting or killing. 
Cinemas and stageplays are unknown in the jungle, there is no 
distraction of any kind; alcohol is the only means of escape. 

It must be admitted that the Bhils made and still make 
to frequent and excessive use of this kind of salvation. It 
constitutes, as amatteroffact,agreatdanger.Notthatalcohol 
alone will cause untold harm to the physical well being of the 
Bhils; hill-tribesmen are usually strong enough and hard- 
work and continuous stay in the open air counter-balances ef- 
fectively. The curse that accompanies drinking habits finds 
expression in poverty and a low standard of having. The Bhils 
can not claim that their standard of living is high in any way; 


they are undescribably poor. The huts in which they live are of 
most primitive pattern, devoid of anything that might give rise 
to the belief that they should like to introduce a change for the 
better. The intention to do so might exist in their subconscious- 
ness, but being already poor, it is easier to spend the last rupee 
on liquor than to attempt to purchase an object that might be 
of some use somehow which, however, does not prove that one 
must have it. Even a little drink causes sorrows to vanish; one 
forgets the money-lender, his threats and vile tactics and being 
seen in the liquor-shop is the centre of information, one meets 
every body and particularly those whose state of mind is quite 

It is interesting to note that those who acquired some 
degree of liberty usually abstain from drinking or drink at 
least very moderately. The little bit of education which they 
call their own has at least liberated the sense of consciousness 
and very much afraid to loose reputation, the literature Bhil 
became able to exercise control over himself and his efforts 
may in the long run influence a wider circle. The foundations 
exist and many Bhils are quite prepared to become abstinent 
if they only could. Prohibition should be introduced, but the 
question remains open how and when the passionate longing 
for alcohol will find some other outlet. Every suppression of one 
craving, be it physical or mental, will help any other sup- 
pressed urge to develop and to act as safely valve. It remains 
to be seen in which way and to what extent the abstinent Bhil 
is going to react and if he resorts to some other vice as a 
compensation for the last. On the other hand, one must not 
forget that alcohol is needed for ceremonial purposes with a 
centuries old background. A prohibition would therefore be 
rather out of place as it interferes too much with the mainte- 
nance of social institution which forms, after all, the backbone 
of primitive life. Liquor is needed at the time of sowing, 
planting and harvesting; alcohol can not be dispensed with at 
marriage ceremonies and it is as much indispensable when- 
ever Death claims a Bhil. Alcohol is believed to influence and 
to appease indirectly the gods and as nobody thrives well 
without their blessings, it would be rather diflficult for anyone 
to find a suitable substitute. A substitute could be found, but 
it may not please the gods and if anything goes wrong in the 
village, the tribesman will only fall back with increased vigour 
and consume more alcohol. He will resort to illicit distillation 


and take great pleasure in doing so. As nearly every effort has 
so far failed to convince the average Bhil that medicines 
supplied by dispensaries they are best possible means of 
curing maladies, he will stick to his own method and in case he 
fails to obtain alcohol in the open market, different method has 
to be employed. Stills will be installed in every house. The 
baghat or medicine-man cannot cure any body without alcohol, 
through him liquor is effaced to the gods and it is plausible that 
gods benevolent influences are entirely determined by and de- 
pendent on the amount of alcohol offered. Any restriction the 
fifee availability of liquor would therefore only result in an 
enormous upheaval, spreading discontent and dissatisfaction. 
The money saved through abstinence would be spent on other 
vices and, besides the poor life of the aborigine would only 
became poorer. As along as advanced races do not adhere 
strictly to prohibition, they are morally not entitled to force 
others to do what they themselves cannot do. Despite the 
misuse, the Bhils should be given the option of deciding 
themselves what is best for them. Their fondness of drink 
keeps nevertheless the door open to advance and it is astonish- 
ing why drink is really so dreadful a vice, steps were not taken 
centuries age. The Bhils survived all the same and may it be 
said again, they are in no way unhappier than any body else. 
Moderation, and not Prohibition, are advisable. 

Whatever has been said here with reference to drink 
aims only at better understanding. Primitive man has to be 
judged from a different angle and, more important even, he can 
only then be condemned when he deliberately acts in such way 
that his doing so really deserves to be classified as bad; as long 
as the primitive does not himself have the impression that he 
acts wrong, well in such a case, he is right. His ignorance does 
not disqualify. Finally we have to take into consideration that 
aborigines are proved to be very superstitious. The Bhils form 
also exception; drink is linked with superstition and supersti- 
tion is one of the foundations of their society. 

Whoever has lived in hilly tracts where communication 
is only possible by means of meandering footpaths, may have 
noticed that hilltribes to either like to live in village like 
settlements or in isolated houses dotted over the landscape. 
Despite their sociable inclinations, the Bhils abstains from 
forming any compact settlement; one prefers to live out of the 
way in some lonely spot. Closely attracted and attached to 
Nature, preference is given to a site where he can live abso- 


lutely unhampered by any conventions. Living at a distance 
from the houses of his brethren appeals in so far to him as close 
contract with neighbors in apt to lead to friction. The mainte- 
nance of peaceful relations is of paramount importance; the 
aborigine cannot afford to engage in perpetual quarrels that 
might lead to the destruction of his own happiness or culmi- 
nate in a clash. Life in the jungle is based on mutual assistance 
and as such assistance can only too easily be forfeited, it is 
decided upon to keep at a respectful distance. Unnecessary 
gossip, the cause of much trouble, is thus avoided; every body 
concentrates only on those events that happen within his own 
circle and the neighbour is thus saved from unpleasant inter- 
ference. In this respect townfolk have much to learn from the 
Bhils. The town dweller's tendency to flock together and to 
create a state of congestion is the source of untold friction and 
inconvenience, though, unfortunately, the concentration of ac- 
tivities in a town necessitates as well a concentration within a 
certain radius of living space. The Bhils do not have to face 
such an evil. Agricultural occupation and the location of fields 
rather encourage decentralization. This attitute is even car- 
ried further. If a Bhil happens so have 4 sons of marriageable 
age, he will build for each one of them a hut at a spot distinctly 
separated from the others. Each son is given a gift in form of 
cattle, fowls and some primitive implements and he will 
henceforth live in his own little world, quite apart from father 
and brothers. Family ties and personal affection do not suffer 
herewith; a visitxan quickly be paid and after an exchange of 
opinions eve'ryone returns to his homely abode. 

The huts are of a primitive pattern. Bamboo and mud are 
used as building material, but the huts are constructed in such 
a way that fresh air is permitted to circulate freely. The latter 
seldom takes place in a town-house. The Bhils attach great 
importance to fresh air and it is certainly due to this circum- 
stance that the general state of health is superior to that 
prevailing in congested areas. The Bhils preference to light 
structures had many good reasons. Very thrifty by nature, the 
Bhils likes to change his habitations as often as he can which 
could not easily be undertaken in the case of stone buildings. 
A light hut is easily demolished and easily erected; it does not 
involve any outlay in form of costly building material. He does 
not feel prevented to realize a sudden craving for a change of 
site and climate and the ease with which his few belongings 
can be moved remains an inexhaustible source of happiness. 


Problems do not exist; contracts must not be cancelled. The 
new departure means a new life and access to new hunting 
grounds. It becomes thus evident that primitiveness offers a 
large margin of freedom and it is not uncertain that the 
aborigine is more than wise by clinging to his freedom even at 
the cost of being considered a "wild man". 

Despite the fact that the Bhils are so jealous of their 
personal freedom, they never attempted to counter-act the 
baghat's endeavour to render the Bhils slaves of his influence. 
The medicine-man's word counts every where, he is the ruler 
and dictator and those who disobeyed his instructions were 
soon taught that such high handedness has to be punished. 
The Baghatis the intermediary between the gods and the Bhils 
and superstitious to the highest degree, no Bhil dares to 
contradict. The Baghat blesses the field he assists at ceremo- 
nies, he helps departed souls on their way to heaven and, more 
important even, he is able to detect witches and know how 
their evil activities can be checked. Of course, the existance of 
a Baghat is by no means a compliment which one could extend 
to the Bhils; a sorcerer of his calibre is positively an anomaly 
and a sign of great backwardness. 

Nobody has already been more attacked than the Baghat, 
his prestige, however, remains unshaken thanks to his own 
cleverness. Those who strive to curtail his powers, soon relapse 
into indifference out of sheer fear that the Baghat may indeed 
be in constant touch with gods or sinister spirits and heap mis- 
fortune on their shoulders. On the other hand the dead would 
run the risk of missing heaven, fatal to the dead and fatal to 
those who survive. 

It can not be said that the very existance of a baghat and 
the freedom with which he exercises his powers denote that 
Bhils are particularly primitive. The medicine-man is an 
ageold institution, known all over the world and it is thus not 
surprising that the Bhils rely on him at least as much as others 
do. Moreover, it is the privilege of the aborigines to employ 
Baghats without whom the tribe could not have developed his 
characteristic attitude towards life. 

The Baghats activities only become objectionable when 
they are linked with wilful exploitation or result in loss of life 
and prosperity. Loss of life was often enough caused by Baghats 
who specialize in the detection of witches. Once a woman has 
been declared a witch she may by sheer luck escape torture but 


many so called witches were not able to remove the spell from 
the body of a sick person and unreservedly perished on the in- 
stigation of the Baghats. 

Advanced races have since long discarded witch doctors, 
substituting them by charlatans of any kind. This may be 
explained by man's desire to probe the mystical. By not making 
use of moral remedies, he likes to entrust those who claim 
supernatural powers and as every body hopes to escape from 
the unavoidable medicine-men and their colleagues are per- 
mitted to flourish. The Bhils are thus not much worse than civ- 
ilised people. 

A recent dealing with the many fold changes that came 
into being in the course of the last two decades, special 
attention was drawn to the Bhils who, like many other aborigi- 
nes, develop a likingfor western dress. It was stated that coats, 
long pants and hats are increasingly worn. Being decently 
attired certainly helps the wearer to look respectable in a way, 
though it is rather doubtful if the adoption of an alien form of 
dress is really desirable. In the first instance, it does really not 
fit into the landscape; the Bhil who derives his livelihood from 
agriculture does not need modern attire. It would only prevent 
him from movingfreely and, besides, to consider himself better 
than the common lot, will have no beneficial influence on him 
nor on another. A simple mind becomes easily influenced and 
a pair of fashionable trousers is enough to make a man of his 
kind conceited. Coat and trousers prevent him from doing his 
regular work and once he has taken to wearing western 
clothes, he will not easily abandon such out of-the-place habits 
for fear that the newly acquired dignity will leave him as soon 
as his babu attire is removed. Personal discomfort counts little 
or is bravely endured. When combined with a certain degree of 
literacy, the new habit may easily develop into a profound 
alienation. Those members of his clan who still wear the 
regular jungle-outfit are forced to feel inferior whilst the dandy 
is apt to nourish feelings of superiority. No more able and 
willing to attend to the work and daily routine of the village, 
the modem young savage feels attracted by petty jobs in 
nearby towns and beizaars, provided, ~of course, that such kind 
of work still permits him to wear a coat and possibly a tie. The 
meager education he had regulates naturally his income and 
not being able to make the two ends meet, the young darrdy has 
to resort to all kinds of uses and instead of being a help to his 
own community he is led to become a traitor. Grain dealers and 


merchants might avail themselves of his influence in the 
villages and induce him to act as a middle man not with the aim 
to assisthim on his way to success, but with the intention to get 
a better and more ruthless hold of the villagers. The simple 
minded tiller of the soil will with little doubt accept the 
recommendations of some urbanised member of the clan and 
blindly believe in his suggestion. In case the bania desires to 
purchase a certain produce at a low rate, it is only necessary to 
send his special envoy to the villagers with the order to spread 
news beneficial to the dealer though utterly detrimental to the 
cultivator. A triflfling commission may be paid to the modern- 
ized son of the soil, just enough to buy a new coat which, again, 
is a further step to the complete break with tradition 

Customs & Manners 

It is, of course, not wanted that aborigines never acquire 
the habit of dressing themselves properly, though-properly- 
means that the national Dress privilege in the district should 
be preferred. A clean dhoti is certainly an esthtic garment, it 
is adapted to climatical conditions, comfortable and not too 
expensive. A national dress fosters in addition national feel- 
ings, whilst western dress can be left to those who is by 
necessity had to adopt such apparel at a time when their mind 
and character was already firmly moulded. 

The Bhils resort at present to a loin-cloth. A loin-cloth 
has many advantages: cheapness is the most important. Apart 
from easy availability, it is a most fitting garment for those 
who have to spend their lives in hospitable forests where 
physical work and hunt constitute th e main sources of income. 
A loin-cloth, however, covers the body only to the barest 
minimum and despite its efficiency as a work-outfit, the loin- 
cloth gives the poor man an even poorer appearance and his 
chances decrease rapidly whenever he has to come in contact 
with people who do not look with favour at aborigines kind of 
dress. It is therefore advisable that as primitive tribes increase 
they should strictly keep aloof from western styles. Neverthe- 
less, even if aborigines prefer to wear a loin-cloth only, they 
have reason to do so. They themselves feel properly attired 
and, as long as this conviction is not shaken , it is better to allow 
every one of them to suite his own convenience. The whole 
question.of dress is, admittedly, merely a matter of traditiop 
and prejudice and happy are those who do not face th« neces- 
sity of making all kinds of concessions only for the take of 


After having so much said in favour of the Bhils, one 
should turn to the most fundamental order that governs the 
life of every man. Marriage and marriage customs are of great 
importance every where; many nations have succeeded in 
simplifying the matter, others incorporated a tremendous 
amount of complicating ritual, particularly here is India. Ne- 
gotiations have to be launched, horoscopes are to be consulted, 
gods mustbe invoked and only little attention is paid to the real 
aim of marriage. As long as the dowry offered is considered 
acceptable, the bride necessarily becomes acceptable to the 
same degree and it matters relatively little if and how the 
parties concerned derive any satisfaction and happiness from 
such arrangements. Bride and bridegroom hardly meet per- 
sonally before marriage and whenever they meet refuge is 
taken to hypocrisy and pretension by means of which both 
partners enter the matrimonial bond with wrong ideas about 
each other. Every body concerned hopes that things can be 
settled after marriage and as things seldom settle as expected, 
untold unhappiness results, matters did not become easier 
with the advance of civilization and it is worthwhile to inquire 
how the primitive man tries to tackle the problem. Marriage 
remains a problem even in backward communities though less 
puzzling as every body relies on a tradition that leaves little 
space for complications and besides, every body knows what 
can be expected. The Bhils, for instance do not require any 
young maiden to possess knowledge which can not profitably 
be employed. As a good house-wife and coworker, the Bhil 
woman exclusively concentrates on tasks connected with such 
duties; she knows the limit of her capacities and she is there- 
fore quite free from inhibitions or wrong ideas. Husband and 
wife know the little world in which they live smd discard from 
the very beginning any ambitions that might possibly upset 
the equilibrium of the household. She knows that her husband 
is fond of alcohol, but nothing prevents her from taking a sip 
her self and, so for as the children are concerned they are at an 
early age offered the chance of getting acquainted with the 
taste of liquor and there is none in the whole family who could 
possibly condemn the others. Moreover, both partners know 
well the financial potentialities of their holding and a Bhil 
woman will therefore never abandon herself to longings for 
objects which cannot in the normal way be acquired. In this 
respect they differ greatly from their sisters in towns. 
Townpp-ople often fail to abstain from maintaining a sober out- 


look; the Tnarriage settlement is spiced with vague promises 
are permitted to rely on assurance that is seldom realised 
which nevertheless instill in their minds the desire to brave for 
the unaccessable. The Bhils approach matrimony from a 
different angle, they know life means hard work, occasionally 
interrupted by a holiday. 

However, the human element is not absent. Mutual love 
brings both partners together and the alliance convenable 
comes most seldom into working. No partner is forced on siny 
body. Of course, the parents still like to arrange a match, but 
the boy as well as the girl are at liberty to refuse without 
causing any offence. As a rule, the boy courts the girl and 
marriage takes place as soon as they discover that their love is 
profound enough. Any widow stands a fair chance to marry 
again. In cases where parents or relatives object, the young 
man and woman simply run away and such an act is enough to 
declare them properly married. In extreme case the gird has to 
be kidnapped and provided the girl is in love, the use offeree 
sanctions the deed and elopement is followed by recognition. 
Many girls merely join their lovers by going to houses. This is 
indication enough that they wish to live together and the union 
becomes legally sanctified. 

Alike every whete in the world, the Bhils often decide to 
run away with the wives of a neighbour. No body can prevent 
a man to elope any married woman with her consent; but the 
escaped is usually followed by a sequel based on clan traditions 
in order to assure that a certain compensation is paid to the 
deserted husband. The compensation depends on the age of the 
run-away wife, the amount which her first husband had to pay 
to her father at the time of her first marriage and the prepar- 
edness of the first husband to part with his wife. The settling 
of the zagada requires a lot of bargaining. The whole procedure 
is to some extent flattering to the unfaithful female. Sums as 
thousand rupees are asked for her release, but, usually her 
value sinks during the bargaining operations and she discov- 
ers that her second husband purchased her for the bare sum of 
200 rupees. This, however, is natural course of events and she 
still remains recognised as a valuable acquisition. The social 
status of any woman of her kind remains unaffected. The 
payment of a compensation legalizes and sanctions (according 
to the laws of the clan) her transfer from one husband to 
fan other. Moreover, the procedure accompanying the action 
culminates in a feast. The judges, the parting and the newly 


united parties, some members of their clans and good friends 
join merrily the trouble-makers with the firm intention to 
forget the past with the help of some liquor. The newly wedded 
are presented with gifts and the new departure is made easy 
by the conviction that every thing is all right and in strict ac- 
cordance with the law and custom of the tribe Disturbing 
gossip is hereby eliminated. Any reason to feel guilty or 
ashamed fades away in to oblivion, whilst the structure of the 
tribal society was kept in tact. 

The Zagada system, though condemned by many observ- 
ers, incorporates one important advantage: a peaceful settle- 
ment avoiding blood-shed. To a good number of Bhils now 
violence is not acceptable and refuge is often to drastic meas- 
ures resulting in loss of life. The unfaithful wife of the seducer 
runs the risk of being either beaten or murdered in extreme 
cases. Any union of a man with the wife of another man fails 
to become sanctioned by the tribe's law in case compensation 
is refused and the female degrades herself to the status of a 
concubine. As the keeping of concubines is, however, an age- 
old institution, the woman is nevertheless able to enjoy all the 
animates which her tribe can offer, in as much as the Bhils 
recognise the necessity of satisfying sexual urges by adoption 
of any accessible means and concubines are therefore spared 
from any humiliating attacks as her functions difFrv, in prin- 
ciple, little from those of a legally married woman. 

Pre-nuptial intercourses widely spread. The general 
atmosphere of same contact with nature created no abhor- 
rence for exmarital relations despite the fact that it is well 
known that this state of affairs is not desirable as such. 
Damage is usually prepared by inviting the trespassers in a 
legallized union and no blame falls on a child bom soon after 
the marriage ceremoney. Illegitimate off spring enjoy the same 
status as any legitimate .child and prejudices, so often con- 
nected with illegitimacy are either unknown or deliberately 

A great number of songs demonstrate even that there is 
nothing objectionable in havingpre-nuptial intercourse with a 
girl. Many love-songs concentrate on the subject, mentally 
describing that things could nothappen differently as the girl, 
waylaid by her lover, simply could not resist his entreaties. 
Remote and silent valleys, a cluster of trees with under growth 
or the protected slope of a hill are pictured as a ideal meeting 
places. The poets of the Bhils love to see the heroine made 


pregnant, though matters are mitigated by the birth of a son. 
Love escapades are (at least in songs) seldom rewarded by the 
birth of a daughter, whilst a son greatly changes the sitviation. 

All goes well if it is a matter of mutual love. Unfortu- 
nately, rape is not too uncommon and it is regrettable that girls 
under age fall into the category of those who are most easily 
victimised. The Bhils themselves consider rape a condemnable 
crime and evildoers are without exception handed over to the 
police, which, in itself, is indication enough that nothing vile or 
extra-ordinary is attached to prenuptial intercourse, whilst 
any attempts to molest a child-girl are taken at face-value as 
unpardonable mischief. 

It is rather typical that the aborigines attitude towards 
any kind of problem appertaining to the question of ser and 
marriage is more healthy and normal than that of civilized 
individuals. Personal liberty (provided excessive liberty does 
not result in crime) are the proof around which life rotates and 
should personal liberty and real happiness benefit by it mar- 
riage as such could be abolished. Many Bhils, for instance, 
have clamoured for its destruction, but they have not shown a 
more excellent way, whilst a greater number defend this 
immemorial institution. Marriage is believed sacred and in- 
dispensable to social order, necessary in the interest of chil- 
dren, but, it results too often in failure and, in actual fact, 
develops often in a hell of torment. Without marriage human- 
ity would perhaps have to suffer more and accepting marriage 
as an institution, the primitive egotism of nature's mighty 
urge has partly to be subdued. The aborigine, deprived of easy 
access to the great World, become, by nature, more profoundly 
and exclusively emotional and he takes consequently sexmat- 
ters at once as a concession and a demand, to be shaped 
accordingly to his own world and outlook. He does not ponder 
eventual terrifying anxiety or perplexity adaptinghis life (and 
that of his female partner) to the same subject which appears 
to both with approximately equal force. Sexual activity, in 
every from this very angle that we have to judge the primitive 
man; his edifice, however balanced, offers him the shelter he 
desires, and it never dawns upon him that he is not enlight- 

It is not true that the backward tribesman is incapable 
of seeing the difference between sheer impulse and preserva- 
tion; he always remains within his own sphere. He prefers to 


be nonnal and. whatever suits him best is adopted without 

Aesthetic values and personal inclinations determine 
the choice of the partner, the girls must be able to boast of hair 
as smooth as the skin of a snake, her walk must be graceful, the 
forehead must not be flat, so may her nose ressemble a flower 
volumenous buttocks, flat feet and big ears disqualify; desir- 
able. Any young girl with hair on chest and back is declared 
able to develop. Lop virtues; white teeth and the absence of 
gossipy inclinations are as well favourable assets. 

It is believed that a girl becomes particularly passionate 
when she indulges into sexual intercourse before reaching 
puberty. The experience of the jungle further taught that it is 
wiser to provide as soon as possible a husband for the girl or, 
failing to do so, she turns mad with desire. In such a state it is 
difficult to pacify her passion, she might even become a menace 
to the village and compel the very next male to devote attention 
to her or she dies of madness. 

It becomes apparent that the Bhils do not believe in 
restraint and it can rally not be said that animal passion plays 
an important part in his life. The desolate and isolated region 
in which they live, and the close contact with the nature 
around merely fosters a straight forward attitude. Erotic 
pleasures are the only available distraction. After the days toil 
fires are lit, men and women of every age and description 
assemble, in order to start with the popular nocturnal dance 
round the fire, enlivened by obscene songs, movements and 
gesture everyone of which exclusively represents an erotic 
provocation. Demonstrations of this kind, surpassing the 
borderline of decency, find, thanks to the vulgar note, an echo 
in the primitive soul, sweeping inhibitions away and resulting 
in an alarmingly high degree of debauchery. The effect of the 
flickering flames of the fire, combines lewdness of exciting 
songs, is traditionally accompanied by liquor and it is really 
not surprising that such lusty assemblies culminate in events 
which, with some restrain, could have been avoided. Every one 
is caught by the desire to kidnap, to elope or to rape, thought 
not too much attention is paid to it. The inability to stem the 
natural course of events is recognised and well-known and, 
every body admits, the provocation was planned by organised 
mass-action which, in its turn, naturally has to result in 
massdebauchery. It is of course regretted by many Bhils that 
established family-ties can so easily be loosened as a result of 


their dancing parties, but nothing is done that might possibly 
eradicate the evil. 

The practice as such teaches very little that could be 
accepted by more advanced groups and it must be kept in mind 
that it is the main aim of this treating to illustrate that 
mankind derives only to a certain extentbenefit from conven- 
tion, on the one hand ample proof extent thatlack of strangling 
convertions exercise a loosening effect on the moral attitud of 
clans or even whole nations. 

It is often said primitive tribes can only advance after 
being acquainted with certain fixed moral standards. There is 
little doubt that much could not done in that direction, but it 
still remains to be questioned if the introduction, of moral 
standards so for alien to the primitive man really results in an 
increase of personal happiness. The latter counts so much in 
our life, is so easily jeopardised and so difficult to regain. In the 
case of the Bhils it can be said that only few members really 
desire a change, the majority is firmly convinced that a change 
is not at all necessary and it is therefore very doubtfiil if the 
Bhils will ever feel more contented after being more or less 
forced to adopt standards that might mean much to others, 
offering however, little to themselves. The subject has to be 
handled with great delicacy; and primitive man who has the 
impression that his customs are threatened is prone to adopt 
an antagonistic attitude which induces him, for the sake of the 
maintenance of his personal habits and inclinations, to retire 
to more remote corners ofhisjungle kingdom where an unham- 
pered indulgence into old-established tribal life can be carried 

Uplift work has been carried out and attempts are begin 
made to teach reading and writing. A man who knows to read 
well might be an ornament to the village and his ability to 
interpret the news of the daily papers might possibly stimulate 
others to follow his example. Literacy means as well that the 
obscure accounts of money lenders can easier be chequed 
which, in return, lead to increased prosperity of the village 
population. Such an advantage is required by the Bhils, but 
little could so far be achieved in the field of tribal custom. The 
easy way of living remains the foundation of the village society 
and, should it be possible to pay less to the creditor, the savings 
are by preference used to cover expences pertaining boastfully 
staged celebrations which, in conformity with the degree of 
opulence, result and are desired to result in a fall and abso- 


lutely unrestricted outburst of gaity crowned by a general 
relaxation of any moral barriers. A Bachande spiced with 
erotic provocation, constitutes the climax of the primitive 
man's life. Even the literature is unable to resist non-partici- 
pation would earn him the reputation or being either conceited 
or even important and as nobody likes to see these attributes 
connected with his name, barriers are bound to fall easily. The 
great tenacity with which the Bhils stick to established insti- 
tutions is demonstrated by his reluctance to ease believing in 
witchcraft. The community is ruled by the witch-doctor who, 
thanks to his good relations with gods and demons, is consid- 
ered the only being who can avoid disaster. The witch-doctor's 
efficiency depends, naturally, on the remuneration offered to 
him, though a goat or some fowl are considered not too shabby 
a payment. Alcohol increases the Baghats power to summon 
the invisible rulers of this world; in extreme cases hefeels alike 
to detect the source of any calamity and (in common with many 
witch-doctors acting all over the world) mystic currents draw 
him to the witch. Witches are supposed to maintain mischievi- 
ous intercourse with demons and the devil in particular, 
though she can save her good name by admitting that she is the 
witch who caused illness in the neighbours house. The witch, 
after many entreaties, forcibly agrees to drive the ghastly spell 
away by performances near the bed of the affected, sick person. 
She might become a great celebrity in the districts provided, of 
course, that the spell is removed and the neighbour's health is 
restored; failure to do so has torture and death in its trail 
Exposed to unsurpassable brutality, the witch life is slowly but 
painfully extinguished, whilst glamour, fame presents are 
kept in store for those more fortunate witches who, helped by 
Nature, luckily escaped from a rather unpleasant treatment. 
The very fact that the authorities had to take the most severe 
steps in order to impress he Bhils that belief in witches is more 
than vain, proves that it is not easy to interfere with tribal 
custom. The torture of witches is now prohibited, nevertheless 
every Bhil will probably never cease to do so. The witch- 
doctor's powers remain unrestricted; his medicines obtainable 
at Government dispensaries and it is quite likely that witches 
are still tortured and killed without the knowledge of the au- 
thorities. Government's decision was certainly right on hu- 
manitarian reasons, in new order. In the first instance they 
hold on to the conviction that witches exist and, secondly, by 


not being able to accuse a witch, the latter can not be induced 
to cure a sick person or animal and death is bound to result. 
Moreover, the very knowledge that is legally not possible ex- 
terminable witches by torture, resulted in the apprehension 
that many more women might feel inclined to overcome sur- 
plus and to become witches instead. As witches are now 
protected by law, witchdom is made easy and attractive and 
the Bhils feel that they run the grave risk of being overpowered 
by many fold sinister influences. Nobody can understand why 
it suddenly became necessary to break with tradition. Whilst 
a number of women is spared from unjust attack, the whole 
tribe undergoes pangs of fear and the innovation is far away 
from being applauded. Thus the new law, imported from the 
civilised world, failed to contribute to the personal happiness 
of the Bhils and I am afraid, the influence of the civilized world 
will becgme more and more persistent in the course of time and 
it is worth while to watch the effects. Superstition is frame- 
work of daily tasks. Apart from agriculture, hunting is one of 
the major occupations. Not only that hunting appeals to man 
in general; it is one of the source from which his livelihood is 
derived. A successful hunt provides meal for the whole family 
and it is logical that many precautions must be taken in order 
to ensure success. A favourable moment has to be awaited for 
the start; the early morning hours and late in the evening are 
considered particularly favourable, inasmuch as the risk of 
meeting people on the road is largely deminished at such a 
moment. By no means must the hunter betray that he intends 
to kill game and nothingis more harmful than a question posed 
to him duringhis wanderings through the forest. Any question 
means bad luck, though he can remove the evil effects by 
throwing a stone in the direction of the questioner. It is, 
however, much wiser to resort to a more thorough methods and 
the spell case on his weapon is nullified by winding small 
branches of a wild plum tree around his hunting parapherna- 
lia. The bow is then placed under some stones over which the 
hunter has to step. This procedure, when carried out with care 
and concentration, pacifies the demons. Great silence must 
reign and nothingis more unfortunate than the noise produced 
by the ears when a dog violently shakes his head; worse even 
if a deer manages to escape. The sight of a fox makes it clear to 
the shikari that it is futile to continue in his search for game. 
Matters are quite different in case the hunters happen to meet 
a pregnant women. As a matter of fact, the hunter can not ask 

Kolhi houses 

Song and dance 

^•i^P^^, r^r:,^^^ 


4^ fl| jsu^ 

A Kolhi farmer family at work 

-A Kolhi mother and child with their camel 


for a more auspicious omen, particularly if the woman carries 
ajar filled with water on her head. Tikur and Lawi birds have 
the power to impart success to hunters enterprise, but every 
thing is bound to go wrong after the crowing of the pingale bird 
could be heard from a distance. 

In desperate case the blessings of the witch-doctor are 
sought who, in exchange of appropriate renumeration, gently 
sommons the gods of the forest. The observation of all these 
precautions is hardly necessary on the day following the 14th' 
of January. It is the proverbial lucky day for every hunter and 
one way unpunished indulge into a slightly indifferent atti- 
tude towards the other wise golden rules for hunt. 

Cultural Identity 

It would be a matter of great difficulty to teach the Bhils 
that phenomena as described have little to do with success or 
failure of a hunt. Of course the escape of a smabhar is an 
exasperating experience and every hunter will describe the 
event as unfortunate. In the eyes of the primitive man happen- 
ings of this kind become unlucky and once dis-appointed and 
nervous due to failure, the hunter's steadiness and keenness is 
easily effected and more failures are consequently not ex- 
cluded. The desire not to be questioned when outsetting for a 
hunt is explicable. The hunter feels inclined to boast that he 
intends to shoot so many pieces of game, whilst it might easily 
happen that he shoots nothing at all. His reputation as a 
hunter is thus exposed to criticism and ridicule and he prefers 
not to be questioned in advance. There is always time and op- 
portunity enough to boast after the sambhar has been killed. 

Light hunted, swifl and active and fond of excitement, 
the Bhils possess good qualities as hunters, killing with arrow 
and bow every kind of creature that can possibly be killed 
without the use of fireweapons, steady work is loathed, it 
seems much more profitable to roam about, to collect some 
honey, grass or fuel to supplement eventual meagre results of 
the shikar. At particularly critical moments help is offered to 
bigger landlords and the few annas gained are enough to carrj' 
on for the moment. The daily diet consists of milk bread, curds, 
vegetables, fish and occasionally a mouthful of flesh. All these 
items are produced either by themselves or theirlittleholdings 
or the forest supplies whatever may be lacking. Roofs and 
fruits grow profusely throughout the jungle. The sacrificial 
slaughter of Buffaloes is the crowning event of the year; on 


such an occasion large quantities of meat are eaten. The Bhil 
does in principle not object to eating the flesh of cOws and his 
want of reverence for the life of these animals placed him 
rather low among Hindus, though touch does not defile. Sev- 
eral tribes abstain from eating beef, but all of them believe in 
demoniacal influences, witchrafl and omens. Their religion is 
one of fear and it is therefore quite natural that their whole 
pattern of life was and is in consequence shaped by fear and 
superstition. Orgies, feasts and bachnales are the natural 
means of escape. A prayer uttered on one of the consecrated 
stones offers mental calm and satisfaction to those who do not 
participate in worldly orgies. A few reverence holy trees or 
believe in the assistance of an enchanted horse or dog. 

Nature provided a fitting setting for this extraordinary 
kind of life. The luxuriant jungle with her ever green coat of 
foliage, undulating and rising to lofly hights, forms indeed the 
most suitable background in which the cultural life of the Bhils 
could develop. Rustling trees the calm of dale, the gentle roar 
of a waterfall and the mani-fold strange voices of the forest 
exercise an eloquent appeal pleasing to the casual traveller, 
but immensely laden \vith significance and meaning to the 
primitive son of the forest. The guarted tree, growing in 
solitude on the summit of a mound literally invites the pre- 
sumption that the huge stem ever served as an abode of some 
powerful spirit, whilst the slight animation of the foliage, 
stirred by the evening breeze, logically indicates pleasure or 
displeasure of the demon and is it not natural that Gods prefer 
to dwell near running water, ever ready to listen to the playful 
sound of the waves? Strange meanings are attributed to 
strangely shaped shrubs which, when covered with blossoms, 
exercise alluring influences or what shall the Bhil think of the 
solitary giantboulder found on slope?They are manifestations 
of an almighty power, beyond reach, and worthy to be wor- 
shipped. Why should the strange cry of a bird not be taken as 
an indication of warning to abstain from approaching a silent 
valley where apparently, witches confer with the devil and his 
helpmates? Not listening to the warning spells disaster, but 
where lied the boundary within which the devil agitates 
sinister forces? The witch-doctor, the only man able to extract 
the proper meaning from strange phenomena, has, by neces- 
sity to be consulted and nothing would be more dangerous and 
provocative then not to sacrifice a goat on a certain day. Town 
officials, sent from far away to the judge wilderness, have good 


talking, though what do they actually know? Not initiated will 
be secrets and love of the forest, they represent, from the point 
of view of the primitive man, a heretical menace. The jungle 
dweller does not want to get acquainted with civilization alien 
to his beliefs; he might appreciate his son's ability to write and 
to read and to settle his accounts with the bania, but this is all 
what is actually wanted. This very life established in its 
present form and shape for thousands of years, seems to him 
so utterly perfect and regular and what does poverty matter to 
him. Of course, an increase of his income does not meet with 
any objection, but money is easily spent. The whole matter 
would interest the primitive man provided it is possible to as- 
certain that his gods, demons and spirits fall into line and 
adopt themselves to the new situation. Is there any guarantee 
that witches are going to lose the power to trouble the village 
or will they at least become more docile and less aggressive? 
Who can prove that the witch-doctor is wrong? Hardly any 
body is so far willing to believe in the curative properties of 
modem drugs available at the dispensary; the recovery of a 
sick person is still ascribed to the good influences of gods who, 
despite the intake of outlandish medicines, benevolently par- 
doned those who temporarily lost faith. In the case of death 
blame is thrown on medicines, obtained from outside and the 
baghats position is only strengthened. 

The Bhils cling to tradition as much as more advanced 
communities do and it would indeed be a great mistake to 
pronounce a verdict in their disfavour. No doubt, they are very 
backward, but in many instances the backwardness itself 
contributed to their well-being and happiness to such an 
extent that one feels really inclined to ponder over the merits 
of this kind of life. Natural in acting and thinking, straight 
forward in expression, th e Bhils posses perhaps the key to hap- 
piness. Anything that makes life complicated is avoided and 
ambitions do not exist. Every body follows the one and only 
Rath personal happiness and satisfaction. The mean s of reach- 
ing the goal may be crude, though they are crude only in the 
eyes of those who want to reform. Dri the other hand, nobody 
outside anyone of the tried can be forced to adopt anything that 
is acceptable to the Bhils only, but we should not fail to 
appreciate that the primitive culture of the Bhils is extremely 
rich though not acceptable to the civilised world. The whole 
structure of civilised life would collapse if any one of those 
institutions preferred by the Bhils were introduced, the up- 


heavel would attain dimensions of unforeseen magnitude, 
without speaking of the many obstacles that have to be over- 
come. From a certain point of view, it is regretable that 
civilized groups are already to such an extent entangled in 
strangling conventions that personal liberty and happiness 
became more and more unknown. If it would be possible to 
change our attitude without causinglastingharm, one should 
try to do so, abstain, however, from importing new ideas from 
Utopia and fall instead back on the flow of energy still circulat- 
ing in districts which we are pleased to describe as backward. 
The Bhils are foolish in many ways and they do not deserve to 
be imitated, but as they are positively happier than any 
civilised person, one should not entirely discard the possibility 
to make use of the few good ideas which they can offer and cor- 
rect, as the same time, the mischief that the Bhils are just one 
of those wild tribes whose name alone ough t to be taboo; official 
literature has little sympathy for the Bhils: they are described 
as lazy, ignorant cattle-lifters and robbers, concentrating 
occasionally on agriculture out of the sheer necessity to fill 
their stomachs. Every society is well supplied with a good 
number of rowdies, but this does not indicate that every one is 
a gangster. Many Bhils are most charming people, hospitable, 
sincere and ready to please and it is utterly regretable that 
they are prepared to resist the claims of money-lenders and 
grain dealers who discovered that the Bhils are an easy prey. 
Incapable to appreciate material profits, they fostered them- 
selves the belief that the every Bhil is endowed with a great 
deal of stupidity which, as a matter of fact, is not the case. 
Simple and inoffensive in their outlook, they are inclined to 
take everything for granted, only in order not to disturb the 
peace of their lives. 

It is not exactly known how many Bhils actually live in 
the various parts of India. An accurate census is in so far made 
difficult as the name Bhil is often given to wild or half wild 
tribes. The hilly tracts of the Bombay presidency are consid- 
ered to be the original home, from which many clans spread in 
all directions, even as far as the plains of Gujarat and the 
Northern Deccan. Bhils can even be met in Rajputana and 
Sind; the migration to the latter districts, so contrary in 
climate to the original home, is probably based on necessity. 
Famine and an increase of difficulties drove the dweller of the 
forests into the scorched plains of northern India where land 
was available. 


It is generally presumed that Bhils occupied once an 
honorable position. Some of their kings ruled over wide coun- 
tries and exercised great power, but opposed to the advancing 
tide of Aryan conquest in primitive times, the opposing Bhils 
were unable to stern the invaders who gradually succeeded to 
push the Bhils back to the fastnesses of mountains andforests 
which they eventually occupied. As a race they were feared and 
hated and it is not surprising thatthe contemporary chronicler 
felt great reluctance to mention the Bhils in his scripts where 
the history of a fierce uncivilised, conquered or fallen race was 
not considered a subject sufficiently attractive to adorn the 
annals of more advanced races. Only on few occasions are they 
contemptuously spoken off as an illegitimate people. The 
Bhils, however, were not too much pleased by this kind of 
treatment and retaliated by invasions of the plain country, 
reestablishing their contact with dominant races (Rajputs), 
though their strongholds it is said could mostly be found only 
among the Bhils and in the forests where greater security and 
better means of defence were offered by nature. 

Some of the neighbouring races finally overcame their 
reluctance and prejudices and intermarried with the Bhils, 
though this admixture of races was never considered particu- 
larly recommendable, in as much as the proud Rajput families 
carefully tried to avoid the introduction ofany foreign element, 
whilst the Bhils showed a certain anxiety to prove that Rajput 
blood is, at least partly, circulating in their veins. Moreover, 
the Rajputs attitude is excusable; the very fact that an admix- 
ture of fair coloured races with member of less fortunate dark 
races usually results in particularly dark offspring, proves 
that some kind ofacolourbar existed already in ancient times. 
Those Bhils who had intermarried with Rajputs etc., devel- 
oped, in their turn, a high degree of snobbishness which led 
finally to a distinctions among the Bhils. New classes, clans, 
tribes and sub-tribes sprang into existence, forming the nu- 
cleus of the present order. No wonder that the Bhils differ, in 
their outer appearance, so much from each other. Small, light 
limbed, fair and active men form a contrast with stunted wild 
woodmen with African features who are again classified worlds 
apart from the well made, tall and handsome members of 
certain tribes. Itishowever, typical thatthesamekindofdress 
is in favour with all the various tribes; the loin cloth is 
universal A bracelet, necklace and a pair of earrings are the 


ornaments worn though gold is seldom represented. The Bhils 
are too poor to afford costly ornaments, silver and brass 
became fashionable. Strings of glass and stone beads were 
liked since time immemorial and are still in great favour to- 
day. A few glass-bangles, cheap but colourful, are a sign of 
enviable prosperity. The village belle wears sometimes a 
nosering, though this type of ornament is classified as extreme 
luxury and denotes a high degree of extravagance. The turban 
is an indispensable requisite of every man; the women favour 
embroidered bodies, completed by a never too clean a sary. 

The dialects spoken are innumerable. Every village has 
its own dialect, every hamlet boasts of some kind of a slang not 
understood in places some miles away. Occasionally one comes 
across some strange form of speech which seems to point to an 
original language now lost. The Bhils never developed a 
written language of their own; if anything has to be recorded 
refuge is taken to a script resembling Gujarati, Marathi or 
Hindi, according to the fluctuating nature of the dialects spo- 
ken in the very district. 

Little is known about the exact number of tribe and 
clans. The Bhils are almost, in conformity with Hindu custom, 
very fond of dividing themselves in innumerable clans and 
groups, though the differentiation does not equal the proper 
Hindu caste system. It is difficult to explain why the Bhils took 
to so great fondness of dividing every group into countless sub- 
groups; the historians, at least, mention that such a system 
was not known among the Bhils of ancient days. A strain of 
foreign blood, miscellaneous origin, the father's name, a fa- 
vourite settlement or occupation, private pursuits and mem- 
bership of to — temistic organizations support the view that 
many reasons existed and inspired the early Bhils to separate 
and differentiate. Those who eat beef have, naturally, to form 
a different group, the tribes concentrating on hunting keep 
aloof from cultivators, whilst customary differences in wor- 
ship, dress, the habits of eating or preparing food, alone are 
inducement enough to create certain distinctions. Rituals, 
ceremonies and festivals are an additional cause; the pure and 
impure cannot mix on such occasions. Untouchability, how- 
ever, is hardly known. Members of the many fold clans inter- 
dine, but certain restrictions are imposed on inter-marriage. 

During the long centuries of decline, the spirit of the 
Bhils was only partly broken. Poverty, laziness and the loss of 


power of resistance have hastened the down fall; original tribal 
life, however, remained strong. The Bhils are not degenerate 
nor do they foster misanthropic inclinations and it is quite pos- 
sible that customs may undergo a revival which, when to some 
extent modernized, able to contribute to the uplift of the whole 

Folk Lore & Folk Songs 

Folk-songs, another expression of tribal culture, vividly 
portray the mental out-look. So far as the songs of the Bhils are 
concerned, dance, pleasure, love-making and sexual indul- 
gence usually form the background; events of domestic impor- 
tance and, occasionally, the life-stories of national heros lend 
themselves to romantic interpretations. Whatever may be de- 
scribed in songs, the Bhils never venture outside their own 
sphere of living; the forest, the dense jungle, some tree or a 
colourful flower are chosen as the scene or the object of their 
song, by which means the strong preference to their own 
national locality is stressed. A few extracts may serve as an 
indication and illustration. The root of an old karanji tree 
contains a well - like cavity in which a Fir-tree was pilanted 
(probably by a god). The young Fir tree benefited by the 
abundance of water and grew therefore well; swinging (in the 
breeze) from left to richt iust in the same fashion as a king 
sways gently when sitting on his throne. One day, it happened 
that a girl directed her steps towards the young tree. The girl 
stbod in its shade, lovingly admiring the forest, when a boy 
approached her quite suddenly. Giving sway to his passions, 
he caught the hands of the girl and whirlingher round, caused 
her to fall on the grassy ground. Naturally, the youngster 
committed a sexual indiscretion and the girl became pregnant 
and, when time was ripe, a little boy was bom. In the fashion 
of her tribe, the young mother tied a swing to the branch of a 
tree, keeping it moving all the time, to the delight of her child. 

The song does not explain whether or not the two 
arranged for a marriage, though it mightbe presumed thatthe 
birth of a son is compensation enough, apart from the pleasure 
derived from her pleasant occupation which consisted in keep- 
ing the swing in swaying motion. 

2. A big Kirani tree, laden with fi-uit, grew on the slopes of 
some distant Jiill. The fruits of the Kirani tree are sweet to eat 
and the young folk love to go, in groups or alone, to the sloping 
hill in order to gather the fruit. So, it happened that a girl. 


named Dhubi, went to the tree with the intention to eat some 
fruits. Whilst she was busy doing so, she noticed that she had 
been followed by a boy who, after having reached the spot 
where the girl was standing, made it clearly understood that 
he was not exclusively interested in the sweetness of the fruits. 
He caught the girl and raped her without remorse. 

In this song it is stated that the consent of the girl was 
probably not obtained. The very fact that young men are in the 
habit of watching the movements of girls who stride alone 
through the forest - ought to be known to the daringbeauty and 
it is left to the audience to decide if the girl knew all about it or 
if she deliberately went alone into the forest with the hope of 
being seen by a male. Undecided as it is, a poignant note is 
introduced into the song, exercising a strong appeal to the 
Bhils who are only too prone to act in the same way as the 
youngster did, though no son is born afterwards and the girls 
reputation is saved by saying that 'rape' had taken place and 
nobody can blame her for it. 

3. Bitter complaints are launched by a youngster who 
strives in vain to gain favours from a girl named Nangi. All his 
entreaties prove to be futile; the girl makes it clear that she is 
unable to nourish feelings of affections for him. Driven to utter 
despair, the boy acquires a threatening attitude by asking the 
girl how it is possible for her to smile at a certain boy Ranja and 
even to have sexual intercourse with him, whilst he, the 
unhappy suitor, has to remain unsatisfied and disappointed. 

On the one side, the girls steadfastness is stressed, but, 
as nobody sees any thing praiseworthy in it, the girl becomes 
the fascinating centerpiece of the song by the admission of 
certain relations with Renja, her real lover. The disappointed 
suitor might be a well to-do man, though this is not enough 
enducement to the girl who, like every Bhils (male or female) 
listens exclusively to the voice of the heart and, by breaking 
down all barriers, goes even so far that her connections (not 
legalised by marriage) with her lover are permitted to be 
known to every body. She acquires the reputation of being 
natural and desirable, whilst the lover may boast of hours 
intimate bliss. The events described firmly express the Bhils 
attitude in matters of sex; one cares little in particular and 
even if it comes to an open scandal matters can always easily 
be arranged. Complications are only created by those who 
cannot do without it and, decidedly, the Bhils do not belong to 
this catofTory, 


4. A farmer who had spent many hours ploughing his 
fields, neglected in his tiredness, to watch the girl Chungi who 
had accompaniedhim to the fields. No wonder that the girl was 
glad when she was approached by one of her boy-friends. She 
did not hesitate to accept his invitation to follow him into the 
forest and once hidden from sight, she became an easy prey. 
The escapade, however, became known through her becoming 
pregnant, though the gods smiled at her and presented her 
with a son. The little lad was one of the prettiest babies ever 
bom and never before had a mother with greater tenderness 
kept the boy's swing in motion. 

Well, the farmer is to be blamed for the accident, he 
should not have taken his daughter to the field, or, if he had, 
at least employed her properly, things might have taken a dif- 
ferent turn. But, apparently, she knew the boy better than any- 
one else and his coming was perhaps pre-arrange. Again we 
see that youngsters, who intend to make mischief, often have 
to hood-wink their elders who, it seems, are quite accustomed 
to it. 

5, All kinds of fine vegetables are planted in the garden and 
the gardener can think of nothing better than to present his 
sweatheart with a basket full of greens. 

The theme of this song is strikingly simple and decent. 
A gardener, skillful in his art, can boast of a crop of fine 
vegetables and one can assume that his ability to raise such 
good vegetables isknown to a good number of girls is it not very 
likely that a par ticularly fair maiden rather likes to pass along 
the garden's fence when on her way to the village well? She 
might hesitatingly have slowed down the pace of her steps, 
glancing timidly over the fence or, better, even, have made 
encouraging remarks as to the quality of the crop grown and 
the abilities of the young gardener in particular. Is it so 
difficult for him to understand that the maiden merely pre- 
tended to be interested in his vegetables? Well, to make sure, 
he sends her a basket full, guessing that this friendly gesture 
is bound to clarify the situation. Certainly, she must be pretty 
too and, quite desirable and attractive or he would not have 
parted with his vegetables at all. 

6. A boy and a girl happen to be alone in the house. This 
very favourable circumstance makes the boy rather bold and 
it is not surprising that the girl feels rather afraid, though the 
passionate feelings of the boy are not subdued by her fearful 
attitude, on the contrary, he forces the girl to quieten his 


emotions in the most drastic manner. In the heat of the act, it 
was not noticed that a neighbour was watching the struggle 
through half- open window. This remark terrified the boy and 
the girl, they tried to solve the riddle by asking each other what 
is going to happen, in case the neighbour spreads the story of 
what he has been. 

So far as this song is concerned, the Bhils cannot claim 
to have introduced a new subject. As long as the Earth rotates, 
there will always be some couples who have to torture their 
mind by asking. What is going to happen now? 
7. This song, taken from another group of songs, has as its 
theme the complaint of a woman who feels neglected by her 
husband. Although the Bhils do not attach too much impor- 
tance to little complaints of this kind, jealousy is at least 
permitted to figure more prominently in their songs. 

I am as beautiful as the flower of the Mango tree; my eyes 
are radiant like a cotton flower that sways in the morning 
breeze, my body is more beautiful even than the leaves of the 
Niem-tree. So fresh, so clean, and so unsurpassably delightful. 
But alas, my husband fails to see that I am so attractive and, 
worse even, he devotes allhis attention to another woman, one 
who really cannot claim to be as beautiful as I am. How do I 
know what my husband thinks of her? He behaves like a white 
crane and takes even to using bad language. It is is certainly 
not possible that he has already forgotten that I am of good 
stock. Nothing will ever change his mind and it is really better 
for me to die. 

The fate of the neglected beauty is quite contrary to 
general practice. Certainly, a good many Bhils neglect their 
wives, but as soon as a wife has the impression that her 
husband's attention is diverted in another direction, she will 
positively refuse to pass through all the stages of martyrdom 
and sirnply make arrangements with somebody else. A second 
husband is soon found and as the first husband is the only one 
to be blamed for the break-down of once happy matrimonial 
relations, the second husband benefits in so far as his finances 
will be less taxed, in such a case. 

As said before, the Bhils delight in portraying their lives 
in their songs, as was demonstrated above. Many tunes de- 
voted to the hunter and his experiences in forest and jungle, 
others picture insignificant events occuring when going to the 


OffiGials and the various public servants are spoken of in 
melodious form full of praise or saturated with contempt. Tax- 
collectors fare worse; they are said to combine their duties with 
rape and lust. Songs of this kind are full of mockery and are 
nothing else than a jocously manufactured tirade against 
those whose duty it is to fill the coffers of Government. The 
shrewd bania is not forgotten ; his activities are too well known 
among the Bhils and it is more than natural that money-lend- 
ers etc, figure prominently in songs, just in order to take 
innocent, though not less biting, revenge. Songs relating to the 
relations of the opposite sex supply, however, the most appre- 
ciated source and form of entertainment, especially on occa- 
sion of communal dances or at moments when the crowds, in 
festive mood, indulge into excessive intake of alcohol. Many 
songs are exceedingly obscene and therefore much in favour. 
They are intended to create the proper atmosphere for orgies 
to follow. Such is life in the jungles, unswervingly heading to 
the point. 

The stories told among the Bhils are mostly a mixture of 
reality and fable. Often the action is made difficult by the 
introduction of mystic beings or un-animated objects, never- 
theless, able to speak and to understand. Some animals, for 
instance the fox and the snake, exhibit all the attributes of 
cunningness and vice, though they are sometimes allowed to 
make themselves useful by solving riddles and thus bring the 
stories or fables to a successful end. Field and forest, jungle or 
river site, in short the scenery to which the Bhils are accus- 
tomed, were selected as the most suitable background, by 
means of which a certain simplicity and naivity is imparted. 
May the following few examples throw some light on the 
foregoing introduction. 

Once upon a time a man went to the jungle. It was a 
lovely morning in spring; the wind blew mildly and gentle over 
the country and the man strolled happily about, delightfully 
gazing at flowers and trees around him. Whilst aimlessly 
journeying through the thicket, he happened to come to a big 
tree, from one of the branches of which a giant snake was 
hanging. Although the serpent behaved quite well, the wan- 
derer thought it wise to destroy the snake by settingfire to the 
tree. The tree caught fire within a short time and the serpent 
felt rather embarrased. In her despair she appealed to the man 
to be merciful and to assist her in her attempt to leave the tree. 
The man, however, being timidby nature, explained that he is 


afraid that the snake might bite him as soon as assistance is 
coming forth. The serpent hastened therefore to explain that 
she never intends to do such a vile thing and in order to make 
it easier for him to decide quickly, she instructed him in which 
way an escape could most easily be staged. Take a long stick 
and lean it against the branch on which I am resting and I shall 
be able to get down without difficulty. The man did as told and 
the serpent alighted. As soon as she was out of danger, she 
turned againsther saviour and made it quite clear that she will 
bite him now. The man protested vehemently and only saved 
himself by suggesting that some body else must be asked in 
order to ascertain of the snake's attitude is justified. So they 
went together in search of somebody or something able to 
speak justice. The path they crossed on their way was consid- 
ered to be experienced in judging and the man addressed the 
path as follows: Dear Sister, I have saved the life of the serpent 
and now, as a bad reward for my kindness, I am threatened to 
bebitten without remorse. And the path answered "During all . 
the years that I am here in the jungle, I certainly saw many 
strange things, but such a case as yours never happened before 
and, I am afraid, I feel at loss and quite unable to tell you what 
you should do". The snake and the man had thus to continue 
their search and, luckily, they met a mare that was grazing 
peacefully under some tree. But, alas, the mare was no wiser 
than the path, and could consequently not reveal any informa- 
tion that might settle the dispute. Whilst they were just 
turning away after having thanked the mare for the benevo- 
lent interest she had taken in their case, a fox strolled towards 
the group and he too listened politely to the story. He thought- 
fully rubbed his paws against his nose, meditated for a while 
and then made the following utterance. "It is most difficult to 
judge in. so intricate a matter. None of us, whose advice is 
requested, was present when the snake was saved and the ex- 
planations given are not clear enough as to the order at which 
things are supposed to have happened, I therefore suggest that 
we should altogether walk back to the tree where we shall 
assist the serpent to regain the branch on which she was 
sittingbefore the fire started the man will again lean his stick 
against the branch and every phase of the escape will be re- 
enacted as before. Everyone agreed. The snake was flung on 
the branch of the tree and as soon as she tried to occupy her 
former position all the other members of the party ran away, 
leaving the snake alone in distress. 


It is interesting to note that the fox seems, all over the 
world, to enjoy the reputation of being very shrewd. The fox, is 
as a matter of fact, a cautious animal, and every Bhil has 
indeed opportunity enough to study the creature's behaviour 
when hunting. On the other hand, many a story can never to 
brought to a happy end, without the introduction of some new 
and unforeseen factor, and the fox apparently happens to be, 
at the desired moment, always ready and prepared to save the 
situation. Another fable, for instance, related that a man was 
once asked by a tired crocodile to carry it to the pond. The 
crocodile admitted to feel rather exhausted as a result of a long 
journey ithad to undertake in family-matters. The man agreed 
to assist the crocodile, carried it to a nearby tank, regretted, 
however, soon to have the vicious creature. The crocodile, 
disregardless of any expected gratitude, caught the man's leg 
and at the very moment when it intended to pull the man into 
the water, a fox happened to come to the tank in order to 
quench its thirst. The struggle between man and crocodile 
could therefore not escape his notice and, moreover, the fox 
ofFered to take steps that might reconcile and satisfy both 
adversaries. The crocodile still holding the man's leg firmly - 
refused to see the point, though, after being told by the fox that 
it would largely benefitby the procedure recommended by him, 
the crocodile agreed and obediently closed its eyes, as re- 
quested by the fox. As soon as the eyes were closed, the fox 
hurriedly bit into the tail of the crocodile, which, frightened 
and alarmed, released the leg of the man who, as can be 
expected, ran away as quick as he could. 

Various wild animals play a prominent part in the fables 
of the Bhils. Some creatures, for instance the wild and fero- 
cious tiger, is often represented as wise and aristocratic hero 
of the jungle, on other occasions extreme silliness is attributed 
to him. The contemptutions treatment, in the latter case, is 
certainly based on feelings of fear and terror; knowing only too 
well that the tiger is not an animal that can so easily be slain, 
its ferociousness is deliberately disturbed into ridicule, out of 
sheer spite and revenge. So it is told that a timid field-mouse 
once came across a sleeping tiger and being sure that her 
presence was not noticed by murderer of the jungle, she 
started, not without mischief, to eat the tigers ears who, after 
being deprived of his ears, was quite unable to listen to all the 
strange sounds and warnings of the jungle. He crawled hence- 
forth through the forest in a fashion entirely unbecoming to a 


tiger and become soon the laughing stock of all the animals 
living near and far. 

In practical life, such a thingwill of course never happen, 
but the quantity of it is enough to delight man, who know out 
of experience, that it is certainly not easy to play tricks with a 
tiger. Snakes, of course, are not liked by any body. The nasty 
habit of attacking harmless hunters did never increase the 
serpent's lack of popularity and its place, alloted to it in fables, 
is decidedly not honourable. 

The mute fish did not escape. A certain fable narrates of 
a big fish, so wise and intelligent, that it was able to teach its 
wisdom to others. The fishermen knew all about the scholarly 
fish, listened often to its lectures as they became nearly as wise 
as the fish. One day the fish was invited to attend a marriage 
ceremony in the nearby village. This, of course, was a ruse and 
a trap so cleverly laid that even the learned fish could not 
detect it. The fisher-men knew well that all their attempts to 
catch the big fish were again and again frustrated by the 
intelligence of the fish, though there could apparently be no 
harm in inviting the fish to come to the village. The fish 
accepted the invitation, and as soon as they had covered a 
distance far enough from the water, they caught the unsus- 
pecting fish which, after some struggle, finally found its way 
into the frying-pan. It is said that the wedding - festivity 
became known as particularly gay and frolic. The bride, who 
ate the brain of the fish, gave birth to a son. 

The Bhils are very fond offish. Its flesh is considered to 
be a delicacy and on certain occasions fishing parties are 
arranged, attracting whole village populations. 

This little story is, in itself, absolutely insignificant but 
nevertheless popular. The Bhil likes to stress that he is by no 
means a drowsy, unintelligent being. He knows all the little 
tricks of his professional occupation and it is natural that his 
skill, based on longexperience finds somehow expression in his 
fables and folklore. The bulk of the popular stories are, how- 
ever, so obscene that they must remain restricted amongst the 
Bhils. As mentioned before, sex plays an important part in the 
life of the Bhils. To be loose and fast is the rule of the day. 
Certain restrictions and moral conventions prevent the aver- 
age Bhil from going farther than he already does, though in 
imagination, at least, the most perverse cravings are ex- 
pressed in their stories, and, although it is claimed that such 
perversity is merely possible within the framework of already 


incredibly phantastic stories, it can, without hesitation, be 
said that the Bhil is only too willing to do exactly what his 
story-characters are supposed to do. Pathalogical inclinations, 
like sexual contact with animals, figure prominently in fables 
or semi-fables and a closer study of the intimate life of the Bhils 
will possibly reveal if the alleged strange habits of story - 
figures are also common among the population. 

In matters relatingtosex,nobodydiscussesmore frankly 
than the Bhil. It forms every where the main subject of 
conversation, even in the presence of half grown children. The 
imaginative mind of youngsters, who are on the threshold of 
puberty, becomes an easy prey of those members of the commu- 
nity who see great fun in it. Taboos, based on sex, do not exist; 
every thing, as long as it can be carried out, will be carried out. 
It is, however, difficult to decide, to what an extent the Bhils 
should be blamed for it. They do not share the opinion that they 
act wrongly; belief and any attempt to prohibit perversity for 
instance, the pillars of their social structure would be de- 
stroyed. The primitive man will, in such a case, not turn to a 
substitute (below in our eyes), but will indulge in greater forms 
of exces only harmful to him and his community. One has 
always to bear in mind that the dictates of the jungle are bound 
to be different from those of settled and civilised districts, and 
it mustbe left to the inhabitants of the jungle to shape their life 
according to the conditions prevailing, which means that they 
can indulge freely and unrestricted, in habits that are out of 
place elsewhere (or, let us say, are known elsewhere, but not 
openly). The Bhils is certainly, as a matter of fact, more praise- 
worthy and cleaner that the make-believe attitude of many 
civilised men. Corruption of thought and action is rampant in 
big cities and society ought to be declared bankrupt, unless one 
resorts to a brush-up and white - wash of the worm-eaten 

Hawabai and Mustafa Shah